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Chris Ellis: Holding on to Thanksgiving traditions and memories

November 27, 2018

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Maybe it is my love of food, family and hunting that causes my love affair to grow stronger each passing year. Or maybe it’s my love of family traditions and our West Virginia culture as sportsmen and women that we celebrate during Thanksgiving week.

How could we not love a holiday where we celebrate a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest? Especially when the celebration falls in the middle of West Virginia’s buck season.

Thanksgiving week is full of traditions and with our strong hunting heritage in West Virginia, many of us cherish those memories made in deer camps of our youth. You see, the Monday of Thanksgiving week is the opener of buck season where friends and family gather from all over to hunt.

Each hunting camp or family has its own rituals from legendary poker games to who bakes the biscuits. The high tide of tradition continues throughout the week and rolls right into the big day Thanksgiving. It is then that our traditions shine as we celebrate the year’s harvest as friends and family say grace and give thanks over a roasted turkey.

Legendary sides are prepared, football is watched, naps are taken and loved ones from long ago are remembered through words, food, and love.

Old traditions continue while other traditions begin in Thanksgiving week as new ones are born and elders move on. At our table, Mamaw Lester’s bread is always attempted knowing that no one else could ever make it just right. But in her spirit, it is always attempted. The combination of old and new, both in recipes and family members, is what makes the meal and gathering so special.

This year, my brother and I found ourselves in a unique situation. His in-laws, as well as mine, made plans to travel and visit other members of the family for the holiday. That allowed the Ellis brothers to take on the responsibility of hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for only our families. It was the first time since our youth that my brother and I hunted deer all week and then spent Thanksgiving together with everyone at the table having the same last name.

Old recipes like Grandma Ellis’ green beans and oyster dressing were attempted and shared with the next generation. My brother and I recalled the Thanksgivings of our youth through food and hunting stories while our children and wives rolled their eyes at us and laughed. For a brief moment in time, I was a kid again.

I absolutely love the week of Thanksgiving and the last few days of November. For people who treasure the art of outdoor pursuits in the form of hunting and the sharing of nature’s grand bounty, it is an awesome time of year.

Maybe I am just getting older and more sentimental about Thanksgiving week and want to hold on to the week a little longer each year. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Christmas. But I think I’ll let November belong to Thanksgiving as long as I can.

Chris Ellis of Fayetteville, W.Va., an outdoorsman and Marshall University graduate, is owner of Ellis Communications, a public relations agency serving the outdoor industry. Contact him at chris@elliscom.net.

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