Every other year, my extended family celebrates Thanksgiving with three days of cooking and fellowship. I provide the turkeys and am known for cooking tasty sweet potato and squash casseroles. It’s a tradition that means so much to my family – a dedicated time when we reconnect and enjoy time with those we love.

What are your family’s Thanksgiving traditions?

This year the holiday will definitely be different. Large gatherings will be reduced. Chairs will be spaced apart. The number of chefs in the kitchen will be limited. Menus will be simplified. And here in Florida, many of us will set up outdoors on the porch.

But traditions are…well, traditions! The menu itself is a tradition, with turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and other dishes your family has grown to love. Some families go around the table to share something they’re thankful for. After dinner it’s time to watch football, go for a walk, or take a nap. Maybe this year we’ll add a new tradition of Zooming with our loved ones.

No matter these adjustments, there is always something to be thankful for.

With the holiday season officially under way, the focus shifts to children. Our little ones – and even our older children – love the holidays!

They’re learning in their classes about pilgrims and Native Americans. Social studies classes will learn the history of the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts in 1621. Only 53 of the 102 colonists survived the Mayflower trip and made it through that first winter. The colonists relied on the local Wampanoag tribe, who taught them how to hunt local animals, gather shellfish and grow corn, beans and squash, www.History.com reports. The next fall, sometime between late September and mid-November, the colonists and Native Americans celebrated the harvest – and the colonists’ survival – with a feast. Historians report many children and teens were there!

Giving thanks and sharing what we have with family, friends, and those in need is an important part of our American culture. Thanksgiving is the perfect time for parents to teach children to be appreciative, and it’s a great time to share stories about people helping other people. The holidays provide an excellent opportunity to teach children values and the importance of community. The pandemic has shifted our focus to home this year, and we care deeply for those who have become ill or lost someone close to them. Our hearts go out to them.

As we reflect on all that has occurred this year, we also look forward to a new year and the hope of good health for everyone.

As the Chair of the Volusia County School Board, I wish all of our families a very happy Thanksgiving. Take the time to share the meaning of the holiday with your children. Start some new traditions. And show your appreciation for the special people in your life.