Dinner, Family, and the Things That Matter: My Family’s Thanksgiving Tradition


When the air crackles with autumn’s cold, when the leaves blush, when the nights grow longer, or when the wool sweaters emerge, I know it’s time. Every October, around Thanksgiving, my family visits St. Jacob’s Farmers’ Market, located just outside of Kitchener.

Growing up in Europe, my parents didn’t have Thanksgiving. Instead, they had Harvest Day. On this day, families grabbed bushels, bags, and buggies and descended on their local farmers’ market to buy the fruits and vegetables they would can for the winter.

The Friday before Thanksgiving, Mom bakes her cinnamon chocolate Bundt cake. We stash shopping bags, a trolley, an empty picnic basket, and a car fridge into the trunk.

By nine o’clock in the morning, we’re driving into a gold and ruby countryside. As is tradition, we listen to The Vinyl Café on CBC Radio. Thanksgiving weekend, Stuart McLean, the host, hands out the Arthur awards—awards that recognize the little acts that sometimes go unnoticed.

Halfway to the market, we stop at the On Route for a coffee break. Out comes the Bundt cake, and round goes the coffee, and we listen to a Dave and Morley story before going on our way.

At the market, we drag our tools out. Potatoes, apples, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, cabbage heads, and a giant pumpkin fill the trolley. Eggs and cheese curds stuff the car fridge. Old-style fresh bread and honey from local beekeepers poke out of the bags. We visit the vendors for homemade treats to fill our picnic basket.

If it’s a gray and cold fall day, we take our time browsing the antique markets and boutiques in St. Jacobs. If the sun is out, we bask in the warmth and savor our picnic on the bank of the Conestogo River.

But regardless of the weather, we always get ice cream from the Red Caboose, a repurposed train car, before our drive back.

Thanksgiving Day, Dad and I head into the garden to harvest something we’ve grown.

We always make Thanksgiving dinner from scratch, with food bought from the market and grown in our garden. It’s a different, slower experience than buying it from a supermarket. We spend hours preparing the meal, but we’re doing it together. It’s the slowing down, the remembering the old while living in the new, that always gives me a chance to reflect on what I’m thankful for.