Day 3 of Holiday Traditions // Pat Cook

A Time for Picking Favorites

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

What is your favorite holiday – and why? I assume we all love Christmas because we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. Easter is a time to remember and honor that Jesus died for our sins and rose again, giving us eternal life. It’s also fun to wear pretty dresses, gloves, and new shoes. Valentine’s Day and Halloween are festive times filled with sweets and candy. Fourth of July and Labor Day are packed with family fun at the lake or the beach enjoying swimming, waterskiing, and eating cold watermelon while honoring our nation. Each holiday has its own unique traditions. But, when I was growing up, my favorite holiday was always Thanksgiving.

Every year at Thanksgiving, we went to our grandparents’ house in the country where we ate and ate! We ate turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and lots of desserts. My younger sister and I usually argued about who would get the last piece of Sweet Potato Custard Pie which was MUCH better than just plain ‘ole sweet potato pie and nobody made it like my grandmother. All of mamaw’s recipes were in her head, never written down. My aunt and I worked for years trying to get that recipe just right. We finally got one that was “as close as it was going to get.” It’s remains my favorite Thanksgiving dish, sticky and sweet and full of memories. And after lunch, as if we could erase every calorie, everybody (except the really old adults) played football in the front yard. I remember it well.

Setting aside a day to offer thanks may seem natural for most of us who grew up celebrating this holiday. But I wonder - would we celebrate Thanksgiving Day if President Abraham Lincoln hadn’t declared it a national holiday about 200 years after the Pilgrims landed? I certainly hope so. The word “thanks” or some variation thereof is mentioned in the Bible over 133 times, usually with the word “give” beside it or close by.

Psalm 69:30 says, “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving.” When I was growing up, we would always go around the table and share what we were thankful for that year. Still today when we gather at MY house now to celebrate Thanksgiving we do the same thing. It has to be something much more specific than a general answer such as  “family” or “Jesus” or “God.” Each of us is thankful for those things. God is the giver of every good gift and everyone is expected to think of at least one or two of His good gifts to say thank God for during the past year. Nobody gets a pass on this tradition!  

Even though I thank God daily, there’s just something special about the focus on gratitude that every Thanksgiving brings. We still maintain the traditions of food, family, and football. And, I still make my grandmother’s Sweet Potato Custard Pie. “Taste and see that the Lord is good;  blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” Psalm 34:8

  • What Thanksgiving recipe is a part of your family tradition?
  • If you were sitting at my table, what would you share as the thing that makes you the most thankful?
  • What charity or non-profit organization in the wiregrass could you support this holiday season either financially or through volunteering?

Please share your response in the comments section below or join the conversation with our Facebook Community Group

// Pat

Sweet Potato Custard Pie

1 teaspoon plus ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, divided
½ teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup plus 4-5 teaspoons of sugar, divided
1 unbaked pastry shell (9 inch)

2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
3 eggs (reserving whites for meringue)
1 can (5 oz.) evaporated milk
¼ cup water
¼ cup butter

Beat sweet potatoes with an electric mixer. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, water, butter and extracts. Stir in the sugar and sweet potatoes. Pour into crust.

Bake at 375° for 50–60 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. If necessary, cover edges with foil during the last 20 minutes to prevent over-browning if necessary. Beat egg whites until frothy. Gradually add in the 4-5 teaspoons of sugar, continuing to beat until stiff. Combine with ½ teaspoon vanilla extract. Spread over pie and bake until browned, 10-15 minutes at 350°. Enjoy!

Pat was raised in Anniston, AL in a Christian home. At 10 years old, despite an idyllic childhood, recognized her need for a Savior and trusted Christ. Pat attended nursing school in Birmingham and met and married the love of her life, Roddy after his second year of medical school. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and is a 40 year cancer survivor. Her husband says her current occupation is "professional volunteer" as the focus of her activities have involved being there for her children and grandchildren’s various activities - school, church, Scouts, camp nurse, etc. Pat has also led Women’s studies and served on mission trips. The Cooks have two children, Stacy Cook Fountain (married to Troy) and Clay Cook (married to Lyn) and 6 grandchildren, Kate, Mary Dean, Bess, Edward in Dothan and Emma and Hope in New York City. The Cooks attend Wiregrass Church.