Cooking up traditions

Thanksgiving is time to start passing torch to kids

By Debi Neville

For more than 30 years, Kate Lund of Rochester has been getting together with her family for Thanksgiving. Not just her three sisters and parents, but grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Her husband and three daughters are part of the family gathering, which has grown to include nearly 50 people. It is a cornerstone of her extended family’s Thanksgiving tradition.

Unlike some other holidays when people go out to celebrate, such as New Year’s Eve, Fourth of July and Halloween, Thanksgiving is most commonly celebrated at home with family and friends. This tradition is an important one and an opportunity to pass on its importance to the next generation. These gatherings can be a great multi-generational event.


"With marriages and babies, sometimes it’s wall to wall people," said Lund. "It’s fun to see our little ones playing dress up with Grandma’s clothes, the babies playing together and the older ones occupied with games."

Holidays are a chance for new members of the family to get to know one another during the daylong holiday. Men gather around the television and watch football, perhaps giving the new guys an "in" with the group. For others, it’s a time to catch up on what’s happening in each other’s lives.

"Our huge family gathering is an opportunity to see cousins we only see once or twice a year," said Mary Kranz, sister of Lund, who drives to Rochester from Eden Prairie with her husband and two sons. "As long as I can remember, many people travel from quite a distance to be there. Our annual turkey day turns into a whole weekend with their family."

Then there’s the food. Menu items themselves can be a part of the tradition. While trying new dishes, it’s important to include items that have become an important part of the holiday get-together.

Passing on recipes and other culinary traditions to the next generation is important; maybe it’s just not Thanksgiving without Grandma’s wild rice stuffing or Mom’s pecan pie. An easy way to share those tried and true recipes is to have guests bring a copy of their favorite recipe along with the dish.

"Mom and Dad make the turkey and mashed potatoes. Everyone brings a dish to share. It works beautifully," Lund said.

Shopping for the ingredients and preparing the menu can be part of the tradition as well. With Lund’s oldest daughter eager to be in the kitchen, she is encouraged to help prepare their contribution to the family feast.

"It’s important to have our children know that we are part of that larger family and it starts at home, and for Thanksgiving, it begins when we are cooking," said Lund.


While preparing the food, Lund and her husband, Brian, talk with the girls and tells them about family members they will see on Thanksgiving.

"Our parents did that with us, and we want to pass the torch by doing it with our kids," Lund said. "Reconnecting with stories and family is as important as the holiday itself."

Debi Neville is a Rochester freelance writer.

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