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Thankful for Family Traditions

by John Farrell

My family is not originally from around here. My parents moved from California to North Carolina two years before I was born, leaving everyone they knew and loved behind.

The distance – almost 2,500 miles – between their old hometown and their new, adopted city made it sometimes difficult to meet up with family and friends for the holidays. Traveling cross-country with four kids was usually reserved for special occasions like weddings, 50th anniversaries, and funerals.

However, my parents, with me and my three sisters in tow, took us to California two or three times to celebrate Christmas with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Spending what little time we had with our extended family was always a highlight of those trips, and we always looked forward to them.

As a result, our Thanksgivings were never spent with extended family. While we watched our friends leave town to spend time with family or welcome relatives, many of whom lived within driving distance, for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, my parents decided to start our own family tradition.

While everyone else was visiting and reconnecting with loved ones, we headed out of town. Most years we spent Thanksgiving week at the beach; however, we occasionally traveled to the mountains. For example, in 1989, Hurricane Hugo closed down most of the North and South Carolina beaches, so off we went to higher ground.

It’s a tradition my family started back in the early 1980s and now includes significant others and grandchildren. And we plan to keep the tradition alive for many more years.

The important thing for all of us wasn’t where we were or what we did, but that we were all together. We always made sure our Thanksgiving vacations included walks on the beach, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade followed by the National Dog Show and football games, working puzzles, playing board games, shopping, and plenty of food. It is something my wife and I, along with our two sons, look forward to every year with great expectation and excitement.

Over the years, friends have tagged along to experience a “traditional” Thanksgiving with our crazy, loud, and loving family. There have also been times when not all of us have been able to be there for whatever reason. This year is no different.

With all the craziness that 2020 has brought, Thanksgiving is going to look different for a lot of people, including my family. With COVID-19 cases still on the rise and stricter mask regulations and enforcement in place, not everyone in my family will be able to celebrate at the beach this year.

Although we may be apart this year, I look forward to the next time we’re all able to spend time under the same roof.

Among the many things I am appreciative of during this time of year, I am extremely thankful for my family and the Thanksgiving traditions we’ve created. I’m also thankful for our health, friends, and the experiences we’ve had together that have made us stronger.

But on this Thanksgiving (and every other day), I’m most thankful for God’s ultimate sacrifice, His presence in my life, and the beautiful world He created. As Ezra stated in 1 Chronicles 16:34: “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”

As you sit down at the dinner table this Thanksgiving to feast on turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, and everything else laid out before you, I invite you to look around at those you are with and be thankful for the roles they play in your life and the traditions you are creating.

Happy Thanksgiving and God bless!

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John Farrell is a Digital Content Writer / Editor of







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