By Grace Aspinwall Cartwright, CCM Magazine
Francesca Battistelli’s favorite memory revolves around her love for cooking, time with family and the iconic Thanksgiving parade. “I've watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade every year for as long as I can remember. It is the very definition of the holiday season for me. It brings me back to thanksgivings growing up in Florida. Mom would be in the kitchen working on the feast (my contribution was always the cranberry sauce, made with real cranberries), and Dad and I would sit and watch the parade together, with my mom only poking her head into the living room for the Broadway numbers. And every year, without fail, one of us comments on how freezing those poor Rockettes must be!"
For Jonny Diaz, a few years ago, the holidays brought a bit of loneliness. “With plans to go back home for Christmas (we had just moved to Nashville), a trip to Florida for Thanksgiving just wasn't in the budget. I was nervous about how my wife would respond. I mean, she had come to Nashville with me to pursue my career and my dreams. I had visions of us just sitting alone at a table for two, thankful for all we had, but feeling very alone in our new town. Praise God this wasn't the case. Our friend, Ryan (who also Hawk Nelson) and his wife, Nina, invited us over for dinner. Those guys and their wives were all there and we quickly learned how much we had in common. They too had moved to Nashville to pursue music. They too had left everyone they knew back home to chase after where God was leading them. This was the beginning of our love for a town where people understand exactly what you do, and where you're coming from. The Thanksgiving dinner at Ryan's (with Hawk Nelson) has become an annual tradition. We're so grateful for the ways God has blessed us!”
Wes Willis, lead singer of Rush of Fools, has fond memories of past years and is now enjoying celebrating new traditions with his kids. “Who doesn't love Fall?” he says. “It's beautiful in Alabama, my home state, during that time of year. I love it. I used to think my favorite memory was being gathered around my grandmother’s kitchen table with our whole family preparing to devour everything on the table. While that’s still an amazing memory, my new favorite has to be going to the pumpkin patch with our daughter and two little boys. Blow-up, bouncy inflatables, carnival food and picking the best pumpkins around.Truly my favorite fall-time memory!”
Jason Gray shares a poignant Thanksgiving memory, made shortly after he returned from a missions trip. “I had been to Africa before and had trouble with the excess of the American lifestyle when I returned,” he shares. “That year, our second trip to Africa would have us coming home three days before Thanksgiving and I wondered if, having just spent time with children orphaned by AIDS and communities ravaged by numbing pain and poverty, I would have a hard time celebrating the Thanksgiving. Would I feel guilt? Disgust? Sadness? What I felt, in fact, was the deepest sense of gratitude. We are blessed here in our part of the world with laws, infrastructure and freedom that allows for human flourishing. What better symbol of the bounty of our blessings than a heaping feast on our table and a shared meal with those we love? My time among the poor helped me to better see what I have to be grateful for and a vision of what to work for on behalf of all those who bear God’s image.”
Third Day guitarist Mark Lee recalls the best “gift” he received during Thanksgiving as a child. “Thanksgiving gives me something to be thankful for here on earth, yes, but even more so eternally! When I was about nine years old, I was playing video games with my cousins after finishing our Thanksgiving meal. Somehow, the conversation was steered away from ‘important kid things,’ like how to win at Frogger, eternal things. Conversations that came up consisted of topics like why God made us and what happens when we die. One of my cousins had just become a Christian, and I kept asking him questions about it. That night I prayed and received Christ in my heart. Each Thanksgiving I am reminded to be thankful to Jesus for all He's done for me, beginning with my salvation.”
Mark Graalman of Sanctus Real remembers one Thanksgiving feast in particular, that held more meaning than his family could have known. “Probably the best Thanksgiving we celebrated was with my dad. It was before we realized it would be our last one with him. I made a turkey for the first time and when he (Mark Sr.) went to carve it, he found a plastic bag with all the turkey innards in it! I forgot to take it out! Oops! It was a great laugh, we were surrounded by our family and we were so full of joy that day!”