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Gifts that come wrapped in love and tied with tradition are by far more precious than anything money can buy. It may sound trite, but in fact we, and I say, we, because I know I am not the only one who looks forward all year to the Hanson family Thanksgiving and reunion hosted by my cousin, Jim, and his wife, Maryalice, Hanson.

Every year is a special occasion, but this year’s event was beyond belief. No less than 58 family members filled the Hanson home, their stomachs, but most of all their minds. How important such an event can be. We may wonder why our hosts would go to all the hard work and planning; it is such an unselfish gesture on their part and it means so much.

Many of the participants we only see once a year. Sometimes, a couple of years can slip by, but at that rate the children grow up, some into young adults. It is a treat to say the least. We feel honored that they come to see us, their relatives, to allow us to see them, and as they get older, to show us the next generation. It is a reminder of who we are - where we came from - and that memories and traditions will carry on.

We were fortunate enough this year to have the four oldest members of the "tribe" in attendance, remnants of the older generation who gave us reminders of the past: Helyn (Athan) Langlie, Phyllis (Paul) Hanson, Carole (Curt) Schember and Phyllis (Eugene) Hagen. There was time to take family pictures. Pictures say so much and are happy reminders when "pictures that come to mind" are no longer a part of our lives. We tend to forget sometimes. I had hoped to get a picture of the entire Hanson tribe in attendance but we weren't able to get that accomplished. Too many bodies for one picture. In the 22 years we have been doing this at the Hansons’ we have acquired a lot of pictures. It is fun to look back at those old photos, those no longer with us, pictures of babies that now have babies of their own, how we used to look.

There were, of course, thoughts of Grandma and Grandpa Hanson who hosted ever so many holidays for the family. Things were different back then, but the love and enjoyment of being with the family was always there. New generations of families are establishing their own roots, but it is nice to note they still have ties to their ancestors’ roots. There's an urgency to tell things about that older generation, things we were too young to know about or remember. Oh, there are thoughts of the things Grandma always had for holidays and Great Grandma Christensen too and somehow, somebody remembers and tries to duplicate that tradition of great foods. We had "tom-e-toes", lefse, chicken and noodles, Danish red cabbage, two turkeys deep fried in peanut oil, a smoked beef brisket, baked corn, Christmas breads, herring, and Danish delights. We ate until we were uncomfortable, then dished up another plate!

Julie Langlie made egg coffee, something you don't hear of as often anymore, but was the only real coffee as far as her dad, Athan, was concerned. It is made using an egg, which binds the grounds together in the boiling water to bring out the flavor. Tastes differ and are unmatched by even the most expensive brews advertised today.

Though Barbara Mrotz’s stacks of homemade lefse (dressed with Hope butter and brown or white sugar) are definitely the treat of the day. There are great salads and dressing (or stuffing as some call it), two different kinds in fact this year. We also had the traditional pumpkin pie, chocolate cream supreme, chocolate chip cookies along with homemade bread, crackers and cheese, and munchies throughout the day.

Though the Dane blood which once dominated is now mixed with other nationalities through marriage, it is still good and only adds to the quality of the character. Everyone is Danish for this one day.

Our host Jim continues to hold on to the ceremonial tradition of offering a Scandinavian toast of "Bestefar’s" Aquavit, a type of liquor distilled from caraway seeds. Available in almost all cold-weather regions of the world, some are reluctant to partake of its “rich flavor,” but feel it is traditional. For those who can’t handle Aquavit, Jim also does the “Sabreage,” cutting the top off of a Champagne bottle with a cavalry sword, a tradition started in Napoleonic times and carried forward to this day by British Lancers — and Jim Hanson.

No one seemed to be in a hurry to leave this family gathering because there is just so much to talk about and share. All through the house, several knots of people were gathering, conversing, and sharing memories.

It is not that there are always thoughts of family and memories of the past, but getting together always fosters more memories we will look back on in later years. When my Aunt Phyllis put away the childish things that had served their purpose in her home when the grandkids were little tykes, and redid her spare bedroom for adult guests, her children redecorated the room as a gift for her birthday this year, which falls near Thanksgiving. They did it so beautifully it could take your breath away. In part it also portrayed the special connection she and Eugene always had with the big oak tree that was the background for many, many pictures of their family growing up. Not only a picture of wisdom, but a family saying on the wall that says it all: “Like branches of the tree we all branched out and in our own direction but returned to our roots.”

New families mean new roots that grow deep and fill with new memories to add to those from before. That is as it should be. Time makes us subject to change. Again, as it should be, but the memories linger on above what was and what got us this far.

This is only part of the story. Next week I will share more thoughts of those “good old days.”

— — –

This week’s birthdays and anniversaries:

• Thursday, December 12th: Torie Richards, Jean Groth, Addison Gayle Lyman, Bernard Falksen, Allen Paulson, Matthew Butler, Barbara Lageson, Judith Johnson Tetzloff, Kim Seath, Christopher Nelson, Mark & Cheryl Johnson

• Friday, December 13th: Deb Bunn, Dan Carroll, Jake Pence, Eleanor Koster, Spencer Wayne, Maks Robert Edward Hanson, Michael Kelly, Mike & Michelle Peterson, Candy & Darin Baker

  Saturday, December 14th: Makenna Marie Smith, Alexander Jayce Quimby, Keith Bengston, Randy Lehmberg, Elizabeth Falksen Brockoff, Richard Conroy, Wayne Reese, Tina VanRiper, Catherine Lageson, Jim Ladlie, Rich Krikava, Daryl & Peggy Radjenovich

• Sunday, December 15th: Josh Otto, Jolene Sorenson, Brenda Burshem, Dustin Quimby, Maureen Riley, Nancy Kelly, Travis Reichl

• Monday, December 16th: Dorothy Christensen Lund, Allen Larsen, Abraham Groth, Angie Deml, Karen Zicafoose, Laura Rayman, David Brandt, Bev Phillips, Vicky Dobberestein, M. Carol Nelson, Peggy Radjenovich, Paul & Mary Groth

• Tuesday, December 17th: Zachary Tracy, Becky Edwards, Gretta Lageson, Tanya Blouin, Cheryl Cooper, Jack DeRaad, Joel Davis, Alex Edward LaFave, Keith & Leigh Ann Wayne, Lyle & Helen Swearingen, Bruce & Faye Thompson

• Wednesday, December 18th: Mary Torgerson, Catherine Suzanne Olson, Scott Lang, Chris O'Byrne, Margaret (Mugsy) Swearingen, Gavyn Tlamka, Jay & Sheri Crabtree 

• Thursday, December 19th: LaJune Hagen, Kathy Peterson, Jerry Thompson, Sheryl Tracy, Loren Haroldson, Cheryl Utpadel, James & Barb Bremmer, Chris & Jennifer Paulson, Jerry & Bev White

It is your special day; take a break and celebrate!

Surprise somebody. Call someone. Send a card and make their day. Little things mean a lot.

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