K. Beckham- Week Three- Description of a Ritual

Thanksgiving is celebrated as a yearly tradition in my family. It has become the most treasured holiday for us and takes priority over the rest where the most family is together at one time.

It takes place at my Aunt Shelly and Uncle Dave’s house in Columbus, OH with my dad’s side of the family. The day starts with all the family that was available and could afford the travels arriving early in the morning. When we arrive we are greeted with hugs from my aunts and uncles who are waiting in the garage while some of them smoke.

Before bringing our bags inside we gather in a large circle in the living room for what we call a drawing to see who will be assigned which chores to collaborate in making the day’s food. We know it is starting when my aunt rings the large iron triangle sitting on the side table. We pass around a tin with popsicle sticks that have a number on each. Each person, usually the young kids too, until they are gone, so some people at the beginning may end up with two sticks. We proceed by reading our number(s) aloud to my aunt Shelly who reads and records the corresponding duty with the number on a sheet that was made beforehand. We do this five times in total throughout the day. Two are before lunch, two after, and one after dinner. Some jobs are less desirable and met with a groan and laugh such as ‘maid’ who has to clean up after everyone until the next drawing. Other jobs are simple such as ‘open and place nuts on table immediately before lunch’ which often comes with the warning not to snitch any. After everyone knows their job(s) we split up and are fueled by the music that the lucky person who got the corresponding popsicle stick chooses. People with less laborious tasks tend to float in and out of the kitchen and sing along if they know the music or head to the basement to play with the younger kids. They just have to make sure they follow our agreed-upon rule to not offer advice or do someone else’s job unless it’s asked for.

After the second drawing’s tasks have been completed we have lunch. It begins with a prayer song called “Johnny Appleseed” and after we eat our lunch consisting of appetizer like food sitting on the floor throughout the living room.

Once dinner food is ready a couple hours later we gather around long, neatly set and candlelit tables, in the basement. Some people have changed into more formal clothes and we join hands. We again begin with a prayer, this time spoken by my uncle Dave now that my grandpa has passed. He speaks solemnly about how we are thankful we could gather and about those who couldn’t make it such as my late grandpa and dad. After a few tears and consoling hand squeezes we eat turkey, mashed potatoes, biscuits, cranberries, and more.

For dessert we eat various pies and watch the video of Thanksgiving from ten years early and reminisce about that year and laugh at all the silly things people did and what their hair looked like.

The triangle is a symbol of starting the next round and coming together to prepare. We do prayer to bring us together in while also introspecting, less so for religious reasons. It’s a quiet time to look in that differs from the otherwise loud day. Preparing food is something that we do with a smile because we get to interact with each other and create something we all enjoy. Ending the day looking back ten years ago reminds us how far we’ve come and the many years we’ve enjoyed together.

I think this has become an important holiday for my family because of our unique traditions and the way our family has to work together to make food. In part because of these things I think this is a rite of intensification. By the end of the day and rest of the weekend it’s obvious how we don’t want it to end after we’ve grown close again.

3 thoughts on “K. Beckham- Week Three- Description of a Ritual

  1. I noticed that you left out what typology you would place your ritual under. According to the description of the different types of rituals that come from the blog post information, it would fit well with, “Rites of Intensification”. Your Thanksgiving ritual is a social bond you have with your family and it also asserts social relationships. The social relationship part is prominent when you discuss your aunt making the chores list and your uncle leading you in prayer, since your Grandfather is no longer with you. Their relationship, to me, is shown as he leaders of the group and that is exemplified by their actions. Your Thanksgiving also shows, “Value Repetition”, because it is a tradition in your family and you are promoting family values every year. You are also, “Activating status relationships”. As I mentioned above, every person in your family is fulfilling roles based on their status. The leaders are taking charge, organizing, and leading and the younger children are doing the simpler less involved tasks. This is creating statuses within your family.

  2. Hi K. Beckham,

    My family and I have many special rituals and traditions on Thanksgiving as well, so I strongly resonated with your description! It’s very interesting to learn more about your family’s unique culture, and how your beliefs and heritage are represented through these rituals. It may be the same holiday that my family and I celebrate, but our traditions vary greatly from yours. We divide the responsibilities before hand, and everyone shows up later in the evening ready to dig in. I love how your family makes a game out of it and chooses to spend the whole day together, rather than just the evening meal.

    The ritual you described addressed the three important elements that we learned in lecture very well—the separation, liminal stage and reintegration were clearly identified and demonstrated their importance in your personal experience. I think recognizing, discussing and celebrating these differences among cultures (and in this case, families) is the most fundamental aspect of this class, and anthropology in general. I think reading your description and comparing it with my own Thanksgiving celebration really solidified this concept for me. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I also wrote about a Thanksgiving ritual, but mine was that of Korean culture. It is very interesting to compare your family’s and mine. First, families arriving and greeting each other is very similar to that of my family. Yet, the dividing of labor and chores is something that is very different. Because it is pretty much already decided that mothers work at the kitchen and fathers around the house, and kids just ‘play around’, we do not have such egalitarian way of dividing chores. In terms of giving thanks, I guess your family giving thanks to God for enabling your family to safely gather and have a wonderful meal is equivalent to my family thanking our ancestors. It is true that every part of the ritual brings the family together and creates greater bond.

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