by Lisa Moody Breslin
Turkey trots, blessing trees, secret family recipes. Helping others, immersing in football, or rising for the Black Friday bargains.
The list of traditions linked to the joys of the Thanksgiving is diverse for residents in and around Hanover; however, the common element among them is the joy of connecting with others and slowing down long enough down to recognize and appreciate simple pleasures.
“I love Thanksgiving because it is the holiday that calls for a conscious shift away from consumerism to evaluation of what we are fortunate to have,” said Michelle Young, who lives in Hanover with her husband, Scott, and their three children Ryan (Age 9), Alexa (Age 6), and Ashleigh (Age 2).
“Since Ryan was two years old, our family has created what we call the Blessing Tree,” Young said. “We grab a large twig from the yard and plant it in some rocks in a pot. We all write down what we are thankful for on construction paper leaves and hang them on the twig. The Blessing Tree becomes the centerpiece during our Thanksgiving meal.”
“The tree is just a perfect, concrete way for all of us to appreciate what we have,” Young added.
Here are some of the other traditions that unfold around Hanover.
THE EGOLF FAMILY
Parents: Jess and Bryan Egolf Children: Carter (9), Jillian (5)
Residents of Hanover for 11 years
We spend Thanksgiving at my parent’s house. My dad is from North Carolina, so oyster stuffing and corn pudding are always on the menu, in addition to traditional Turkey Day dishes.
We watch the Macy’s parade as dinner finishes cooking, and if it is nice outside we play and hike around my parents’ farm.
We always have a “games session” after the meal before dessert. Thanksgiving is the turkey toss – we use rubber chickens and toss them for distance, accuracy, and more. By the way, at Christmas time we toss fruitcakes; Easter is egg toss and the egg roll. The winner(s) gets a new silly hat or holiday headband. The kids love this and look forward to it every year.
We hang up Thankful Turkeys. Starting November 1st, we add a tail feather each day that has something we are thankful for written on it. We also make apple turkeys with “feathers” made of toothpicks loaded with mini-marshmallows and cranberries, toothpick legs, and a turkey neck/head.
Christmas Eve is spent with my mother’s side of the family. We have a huge buffet that always includes ham, shrimp, and other dips and treats. Santa Claus (played by my father) always makes a surprise visit with a few early gifts for everyone.
Christmas day is at our house and we have breakfast and open gifts with the kids. Then my family comes over and we have nibbles/snacks and open gifts. Then we do an early dinner of prime rib.
Love, happiness and warmth best describe our holidays and all the traditions linked to them.
Shared By: Jess Egolf
THE WEAVER FAMILY
Parents: Whitie and Marie Weaver
Children: Peg Shaffer, Steve Weaver, Stephanie Reck, Hanover; Susan Smith, Bob Weaver, Jim Weaver, Cindy McCabe, Delaware; Jane Kress, Idaho
Having a big family is the biggest blessing, having a big family and being able to still gather. We actually celebrate Christmas the Saturday after Thanksgiving – a tradition that bloomed from years of gathering with my parents, Whitey and Marie Weaver.
Mother’s cooking and three-hour gift exchanges are hallmarks of those earliest gatherings. We drew names and from youngest to oldest, the recipients sat in center of circle and opened gifts one at a time. Sometimes it took up to three hours. We’d have dinner, open gifts and then take time for a sandwich or dessert.
Once Dad passed away in 1998, and as Mom got older, we asked Mom to make things easier on herself and just have sandwiches.
“Not while I’m alive,” she said. And she continued to bake and make a feast that included lima beans from a ham bone in a crock pot, hot spinach cooked with vinegar and bacon, homemade dinner rolls with an orange glaze, turkey and ham with stuffing inside and out and mashed potatoes.
Mom made egg custard, pies and lemon sponge cake; she filled tins with three to four kinds of cookies and she made cheesecake that was so good they are sold around Bethany Beach.
When mom passed away in 2011, the tradition of gathering continued at the Knights of Columbus Hall in McSherrytown.
At first, 25 relatives convened after Thanksgiving for the family’s Christmas gathering. Now, at least 55 of us roll in from Massachusetts, North Carolina, Delaware, Idaho, Maryland and Pennsylvania. My aunt, Louise Weaver, who is 85, will be the oldest in attendance this year and a great grandchild will be the youngest at the age of three.
It’s a fun day for everyone. We can’t wait.
Our parents would love knowing these traditions continue.
Shared by: Peg Shaffer
THE CONRAD FAMILY
Parents: Krystle and Mike Conrad Children: Brady (19), Bryce (10), Shane (10), Sophie (6)
Residents of Hanover all their lives
Every year at Thanksgiving, my husband spends all day preparing and cooking our feast. We have so many people that attend, we hold our dinner at the Armory dining hall. To me, Thanksgiving isn’t complete until I have some of my sister in law’s peanut butter and chocolate cake. Having a blended family, this time is very special to me because we are all together.
The full Christmas season is filled with traditions for us. This starts immediately after Thanksgiving dinner. My mom and I go black Friday shopping. Even when we do not see anything we need, we still venture out into the crowded stores merely to spend the time together. There is never a time when we do not have a crazy story about the night. Next on our list, would be my family’s “tree day”.
This tradition started when I was first born – over 30 years ago. We start off the day with breakfast. We then all go to the tree farm and pick our favorite trees. After that, we deliver each of the trees to all of our houses. We end with dinner and my aunt and uncles and decorate their tree together. I have since started another tradition with my children that my grandparents, parents, and some friends get a Christmas ornament every year for each of the kids. I label the ornaments with the year, the child’s name and who it was from.
Christmas eve, (also ever since I was a baby), we gather at my grandparents house for dinner and gifts. We then set cookies and milk out for Santa and tuck our kids into bed. When they wake up, we open the gifts from Santa and eat overnight French toast (a recipe given to me after my son was born by a dear friend).
Even as a blended family, we make the time together matter. After the holiday, I typically feel exhausted, yet thankful.
Shared By: Krystle Conrad
THE STAUB FAMILY
Parents: Michele and Dave Staub
Children: Zachary (9), Ella (6), Ava (3), Nicholas (18 months)
Littlestown residents for 10 years
My husband and I both grew up in the area, so our families are really close in proximity; each family is 10 minutes away. Thanksgiving day is jam packed with extended family.
My mother is one of 16 children (yep….16; three are deceased). We all gather (and have every year since I have been born) at my Aunt’s home. Of course, not everyone is present for every holiday, but a large majority come and go throughout the day.
I have 36 first cousins on my mom’s side (and that’s just first cousins)!!! I have grown up on homemade food to the point that it’s very hard to impress me. My family has spoiled me in that way. Everyone brings something (or possibly several things) to share with everyone. Nobody leaves unsatisfied.
After visiting my side of the family, we make a short 15-minute trip down the road and spend the remainder of the day with my husband’s side of the family. His dad also has a large family and is one of eight children. Another fun time for the kids and us.
As for the things that I remember and cherish, as well as want to pass on: I would say that I remember most that my cousins were my first real friends. I remember family holidays revolving around eating and then running around and playing. I want that for my children.
Content, joyful and blessed best describe the season for my family members and for me.
Shared By: Michele Staub