Jean Schwieder


Although we should be thankful every day for what we have, it is nice to have a special holiday set aside for this purpose. I have heard many people say that Thanksgiving seems to be more of a family holiday than Christmas does, and I think they are correct. A lot of Christmas is spent in purchasing, giving and receiving gifts, and we, children especially, get caught up in this gift idea big-time! Thanksgiving is more of a laid-back time of reflecting upon the things we are thankful for, and eating a big dinner.

Every year when I was a child, we would meet together at Thanksgiving with family on my father’s side. Our Thanksgiving meal and get-together would be fun. Back then, when we met we would all dress up in our Sunday best. None of us would even think of wearing jeans and sloppy clothes. The men would wear white shirts, ties and suits; the boys in nice shirts and slacks; the women and girls would be in dresses. Of course the women would have aprons on over their dresses as they would be cooking and serving the meals and then cleaning up.

Actually, we would meet together once a month throughout the year. But special months we would not only meet but have a big meal, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. All of our gatherings were good, and we enjoyed being with our aunts, uncles and cousins. In fact, we still keep in touch with those cousins.

Family togetherness was very important to my Grandmother Ricks, and she expected all of us to attend these family gatherings. As a teenager I would sometimes rebel, but as a grandmother and great grandmother now, I admire and am so grateful for Grandma’s insistence of us being together as a family.

I can remember traveling in the car to our destination on Thanksgiving Day and Dad would start singing:

“Over the river and through the woods To Grandfather’s house we go.

The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh, through the white and drifted snow....”

That song set the mood for the day. Dad would change one word in that first verse as his father had passed away when Dad was about 16 years old, so we would be going to “Grandmother’s house.” We would all sing along with him as loud as we could.

Quite often, during a hard winter, my brothers, sisters and I would ride to school in a horse-drawn sleigh, so singing this song made perfect sense to us as we knew what it was like to ride in a sleigh “through the white and drifted snow!” I’m not sure it would make sense to my grandchildren.

I remember singing the last verse, but I don’t know if we sang that verse as we traveled or if we learned it in grade school.

“Over the river and through the woods,

And Grandmother’s house I spy.

Hurrah for the fun; is the pudding done?

Hurrah for the pumpkin pie.”

Back when I was in grade school, part of every morning was spent singing songs. It was especially fun when we were close to holiday times and could sing the songs written for that time of the year. How we would sing! If it were possible for the roof to raise, it would have. And I never forgot the words of most of the songs.

Lydia Maria Child, a novelist and journalist, wrote this song back in 1844. The singing of that song on our way to Grandma’s house, or any of our Aunts and Uncles homes was definitely a part of our Thanksgiving celebration. Three more verses complete this song, but I don’t remember ever singing them.

Another Thanksgiving song I remember singing in grade school was: Turkey Song:

“There’s a big fat turkey down on Grandpa’s farm, who thinks he’s very gay. He spreads his tail into a great big fan, and struts around all day.

“You should hear him gobble at the girls and boys, He thinks he’s singing when he makes that noise. He’ll sing his song another way Upon Thanksgiving Day.”

Hearing those songs again brings back memories of early school days and family gatherings, of holidays and lots of food to eat; and a thankfulness for the simplicity of life back then plus for the conveniences we have now which enriches our lives so much! Yes we have a lot to be grateful for and should remember that every day!

Jean Schwieder is a writer who has spent her life involved in eastern Idaho agriculture. Her books, including past columns, are available by calling 208-522-8098 or by email at