Bringing Back The Holiday Family Portrait

Thanksgiving 1974

I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, Thanksgiving meant the following:

1. no school

2. a frantic mom

3. an endless wait to eat what was effectively a super duper late lunch

4. delicious smelling food wafting around the house for two days

5. the sudden appearance of dishes and silverware I had no idea we owned

But my household’s most important Thanksgiving ritual was someone taking pictures of the family at the table before we dug in.

In my clan, we did not, under any circumstance, touch the food before the requisite photo was taken. And believe me, by 3 p.m. we were all starving, especially given how good my mom’s cooking smelled. But once the dishes were placed on the table and the candles lit, before we could even think of touching a fork, we’d first have to pose gamely for the camera.

Looking at the photos now, my guess is that our smiles are less about my brother being home from school and the five of us — Jon, my parents, my older sister and me — gathered together, than it is about the anticipation of finally eating the meal we’d been smelling for hours. But no matter: The key is that we documented our family celebrating a holiday together.

Sadly, though, what I didn’t realize until today, when I sat down to write this post, is that this childhood tradition has been lost in my adulthood.

Scrolling through the (literally) 5,000 images on my iPhone, I only found two photos from my Thanksgiving last year. One is of the friend who invited my boyfriend and me to his family’s home for dinner (and it’s blurry at that). The other is of my plate itself.

Thanksgiving 2012

“family portrait” dinner, Thanksgiving 2012

Somehow, I didn’t take a photo of everyone gathered at the table, beaming at me. What a loss! People are so much more interesting than food, especially years (heck, months) later.

Thanksgiving Family Portrait 1975

Lomasney Family, Thanksgiving 1975

My friend Matthew, who hates it when people upload photos of their dinner plates on Facebook (something I do all the time), has been telling me this for years. He’s so going to say “Ha! I told you so!” when he reads this.

OK, Matthew? You’re right. You’re right! Taking a photo is the first step of documenting your life, which you’ll appreciate later, yes. But it’s the people who matter most.

Not the plate. The people.

Anyway, so this year I invite you to join me in taking a photo of whatever constitutes your 2013 Thanksgiving Day — not just the meal, but the person or people you’re sharing it with.

In fact, consider uploading your best photo to Kicksend’s Facebook wall, and let’s see how our holidays were alike and unalike. I’d love to see how you spent your day.

Thanksgiving 1976

The Lomasney Family, Thanksgiving 1976.

And, honestly, you’ll appreciate the image later on. Trust me. Especially with my dad in the last throes of Alzheimer’s, it is so special to me to have photos from when he was present in mind and body.

So this week, smile for the camera (or camera phone).

And in the meantime, please allow me to wish you happy, happy Thanksgiving, no matter who you are, what you’ll be eating, and whom you’ll be eating it with.

I'm a 14-year veteran of Discovery Channel who now freelances as an interactive and social media producer. I received my first camera -- a Polaroid -- at age 7, and I've been uncontrollably snapping photos ever since (although I've MOSTLY moved on from portraits of stuffed animals).

1 Comment

  • Reply December 5, 2013


    Very cool idea…we have been doing the group photo right before we eat for the last 4 years only, ironically only after I got divorced did we take the time to do this. I guess in prior years we were too busy…

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply