Thanksgiving perceptions shift from childhood to adulthood

by Jenny Miyano

The season of thankfulness (photo courtesy of @universityofnorthwestern on Facebook).

In the month of November, things are starting to shift from fall to winter. The colored leaves are falling onto the ground, less birds chirp and the air smells like fall. On top of that, it gets bright early in the morning and gets dark early in the evening. As Thanksgiving approaches, staff at the University of Northwestern–St. Paul reflect on their experiences and perceptions of Thanksgiving from childhood to adulthood.

Darrin Geier, director of Commuter Life, shares that Thanksgiving has been centered around extended family gatherings at their home. “As a kid, I always liked the busyness of our house as aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents all gathered together,” he says. “Food was the highlight.” His mother cooked the turkey. Stuffing was Geier’s favorite as a child. 

In addition, his family watched the Green Bay Packers’ game on Thanksgiving Day, which was most memorable. He also remembers learning about the pilgrims and their cooperation with the Native Americans. He says, “We made Thanksgiving-themed crafts, put on Thanksgiving-themed plays and sang Thanksgiving-themed songs.” The story of the pilgrims coming to this land was inspiring to Geier. 

As a husband and father, Geier shares how his perception of Thanksgiving has shifted. However, many of the same elements in Thanksgiving celebrations from his childhood are still present today. Instead of him being the one who brings the crafts home, it is his children who bring home the turkey crafts that get displayed on the refrigerator. One thing that he and his family do every Thanksgiving is the practice of “observing and stating what they are thankful for.” Not only does that incorporate their faith into the holiday, it also reminds the family of the importance of gratitude and thanking God for all He has done. 

Through adulthood, Geier has come to learn the complexity of Thanksgiving. “As a kid, I remember learning that the Native American people were treated unfairly,” he says. He now has come to understand a more complete picture of our country’s complex legacy. Geier continues, “It is more complicated than I ever knew.” He mentions, “Let’s give Thanksgiving its proper time,” as it can be easy for people to look to Christmas and forget the importance of thankfulness. Thanksgiving is a reminder to remain thankful to God for all he is and all he has done. 

Joel Livingston, the Mail Center supervisor, also talks about what Thanksgiving looks like as he has his own family. “The memory that comes to mind is my grandmother’s house being a full house,” he says. Livingston’s aunts, uncles and cousins would come over and they would have the same meal every year, including turkey-shaped sugar cookies. His aunt came up with some crafty projects like turning marshmallows into turkeys. Now, he celebrates Thanksgiving with his family and with his in-laws. “I’ve realized how much time and work is involved in preparing for Thanksgiving Day,” Livingston says. He enjoys being able to get together with family and have fellowship and a good meal together.

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