family traditions and being thankful

by Sharon Santoni

ingredients for family baking - my french country home

As my American friends celebrate their Thanksgiving; bringing their families together,  I’m also thinking about our traditions and our many reasons to be thankful wherever we are.

Family traditions may look meaningless from the outside, but to those who enjoy and perpetuate them, they are full of importance and comfort and enjoyment.   Continuing a tradition is a reiteration of love for the person who taught you that tradition, our way of saying “you got it right, thank you, I’m going to do the same for the next generation”.

One of those traditions for me is preparing my Christmas puddings.  I’m British of course, and although I’ve lived in France for ever, I still love a proper christmas pudding on the big day.   My mother used to make her puddings in October, and I use her recipe but because I’m late for just about everything, I make mine at the end of November, in fact often on Thanksgiving day.

So today as I stir together the very many ingredients, and seal the moulds and cook the puddings for nine whole hours (yes, you read that right), and fill the house with the most delicious festive smells, I have plenty of time to think about how thankful I am for family traditions and for many other things too.

Today I am giving thanks for a family to love and to hold, even when they have moved away from home;    a loving husband who respects and encourages me;  my freedom to create and to work in ways that I enjoy;  my friends who remind me to slow down and last but not least for this blog which has opened so many doors for me, and introduced me to so many wonderful people across continents.

Wherever you are today,  I hope your reasons to be thankful are also numerous, and that you are able to take a moment to give thanks, and to hold on to those you love.


ingredients for family baking - my french country home


Bonnie G. November 23, 2017 - 7:14 pm

Thank you Sharon, you said it so beautifully! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Darlene North November 23, 2017 - 7:20 pm

Thank You Sharon.
Have a blessed holiday season .
Darlene N

Denise November 23, 2017 - 7:21 pm

Thank you Sharon. If you were close I would share our feast with you . No family today.

Helen November 23, 2017 - 7:24 pm

A lovely post. Thank you, Sharon!

Vicky from Athens November 23, 2017 - 7:27 pm

Thank you , Sharon. Thanksgiving blessings to you and yours!

Patricia Morrissey November 23, 2017 - 7:28 pm

Beautiful sentiments! So true, so real, so much to be enjoyed and shared. Thanks to wonderful friends like you, reminding us to be Thankful and pay it forward everyday❤️

Colleen Taylor November 23, 2017 - 7:36 pm

Always so elegantly & eloquently said Sharon. All so very true. I’m thankful I discovered you so long ago. I can’t even remember when but that does not matter. Enjoy your day.X

Susan Gabriel November 23, 2017 - 7:44 pm

How lovely and true~ we stand on the shoulders of those generous spirits who shared traditions and love. May your upcoming holidays be warm and bright ~

Our French Oasis November 23, 2017 - 7:45 pm

Like you, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving being English, but isn’t it a lovely tradition, to be able to take the time to be grateful, to remember new and old friends and to embrace our family’s, that is what we do for this American holiday. Now as for Christmas pudding, no one here like’s it, including myself and I am afraid to say it is an English tradition that has faded in our household, which in itself is a very great shame. Lucky you to be keeping this going, enjoy it for us!!

holly November 23, 2017 - 7:46 pm

You have captured our national holiday and the feelings we cherish about it. You will be “joining” my family at our dinner here in Southern California as I am baking your Fougasse Bread from My French Country Home. Thank you for sharing your lovely life in France and I wish you and your entire family a lovely holiday season.

Michelle Lewis November 23, 2017 - 7:50 pm

Lovely and rings so familiar as my children have moved away. So grateful they are healthy and happy. Thankful. Thank you for your beautiful blog. Thanksgiving blessing to you.

Catherine Adkins November 23, 2017 - 8:31 pm

Thank you, Sharon for your Thanksgiving wishes!
I am a French native but the USA have been my other home for many years now and I am thankful for a number of things!
To have a wonderful husband and son and family in law, many friends of various nationalities and Thanksgiving! (among many other things, like my French family and friends and France) one of my favourite celebrations which the rest of the work is missing!
Happy Thanksgiving to you and all!

Linda November 23, 2017 - 8:52 pm

Thank you for your meaningful thoughts today. We, here near Seattle, Washington, are celebrating with 23 of us, including family and special friends. I love the traditions of this holiday and have stirred up a recipe from may aunt, who is no longer with us. Every year, when I make it, I am reminded of what is truly precious to me – family and friends. Have a wonderful holiday season.

Madonna November 23, 2017 - 8:53 pm

I know it is not Thanksgiving in your country, but wishing you and your family happiness. I am so thankful for you and your blog. You encourage all of us. Priceless!

Karene Atkinson November 23, 2017 - 8:55 pm

Happy Thanksgiving to you and all you hold dear, Sharon. It’s a lovely tradition to remind us to be grateful for what we have. I made my puddings yesterday with my mums receipe and yes mine cooks for 6 and the small one 5 hours. We have a hot Christmas in Australia but my family insists on my pudding and mince tarts. We have 13 around the table for Christmas and this year my first great grandchild, due any day. A lot to be grateful for. ❤️❤️

Lucia Donahower November 23, 2017 - 9:29 pm

Thank you Sharon for your good wishes today. From sunny Carmel , California,where I’m spending Thanksgiving with family, sending my best wishes for a wonderful holiday season with your family!

Susan November 23, 2017 - 9:58 pm

Well said! We truly have so much to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Kathryn Gauci November 23, 2017 - 10:34 pm

A lovely post – as they all are.

Clare November 24, 2017 - 12:01 am

Sharon, you are so very special. Thank you for this blog. I too have been so busy that I haven’t done my puddings yet. 6 to make! I am very thankful I am able to share this tradition with those I love. Blessings to you and your precious family.

sheri November 24, 2017 - 12:11 am

Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for sharing a your many kindnesses throughout.

Lenore November 24, 2017 - 12:29 am

Around our Thanksgiving table we share what we have been grateful for during the year so far…it is good to look back and see the wonderful things that have happened and give thanks. Family getting together and favorite foods make the day extra special. The foods I prepare are very traditional and my family does not let me change anything on the menu. The recipes have been handed down (and updated) and everyone looks forward to the comfort of what they know. Happy Thanksgiving.

Bev November 24, 2017 - 3:01 am

Thank you. Beautifully stated!

Joanna November 24, 2017 - 3:15 am

Hi Sharon
I too have been handed down our Christmas cake and Christmas pudding recipes as I am the eldest child and only female in my generation. I particularly love teaching my 2 daughters now these recipes.
My Christmas pudding recipe was my Grandmothers, great Grandmothers! My Christmas cake recipe was my great Grandmothers recipe, not quite as old!
Have a beautiful Christmas season celebrating with your family and friends.
Merry Christmas.

Dottie monta November 24, 2017 - 4:50 am

Thank you, Sharon, for your warm message.
For those of us not familiar with British customs (but through literature—hello Messrs. Dickens through Pratchett!—and through occasional London visits), please clarify definition of “pudding”. Is it a cake, indeed a fruit-and-liqueur-laden fruitcake? Here in the States, pudding is a soupy sabayon-like dessert, like tapioca, much favored by children. (I do recall a line in Downton Abbey, uttered by The Dowager, Violet, herself: it would be a shame to waste a good pudding. It was at this point I wondered if pudding means cake in the UK!).

Julia November 24, 2017 - 4:30 pm

Christmas Pudding is definitely not cake! A very, very rich mixture which is steamed in a ‘pudding bowl’ – for hours depending on the size.

However, I understand your confusion regarding cake and pudding in England! I was brought up in the North of England and in our house the word ‘pudding’ took the place of the more ‘posh’ word dessert. As in “What are we having for pudding tonight Mum?”

So pudding could indeed be a pudding – or it could be a cake!

I would love to know where to get my hands on some black treacle in France! Also used in a famous Northern cake ‘parkin’, traditionally eaten on Guy Fawkes night.

Hazel Lavelle November 24, 2017 - 11:08 am

Your words brought a tear to my eye , your thoughts on remembering , and continuing family tradition is so important .
Thanks Sharon
Hazel , Manchester uk

Janice Rivenburg November 24, 2017 - 12:53 pm

Dear Sharon,

Thank you so very much for your kind, thoughtful, good wishes! Your warm, reflective blog touched my heart!

It truly is a beautiful time of the year reflecting on all the things we are grateful for. It graciously leads us into the magical time preparing for Christmas and the New Year!

May your upcoming Holidays be everything your heart could possibly desire!

Warm regards,


Jacqueline November 24, 2017 - 2:08 pm

The best Thanksgiving message I’ve read to date! Milles mercis

Dottie monta November 24, 2017 - 2:47 pm

Ah, a bit of research yields insight into the word “pudding”! And yours is surely to be festive, if those are orange rinds (or apricots!) in your mise en place. Still wondering, though, how similar it is to our “fruitcake.”

Julia November 24, 2017 - 4:37 pm

See my reply to you above! Very similar ingredients to fruitcake but because it is steamed a very different texture – very solid indeed some would say! Traditionally it is flamed with brandy at the table.

When I was a child it was also tradition to put a small coin in the pudding – a threepence if my memory serves? – and whoever got it in their portion was the guest of honour at the meal.

Thank you for this post Sharon, bringing back some lovely memories.

Taste of France November 24, 2017 - 5:12 pm

The first time I had Christmas pudding was at the home of a girl I tutored in math. She had made great progress and her parents invited me to dinner with the family. The pudding was a revelation–I still remember it vividly decades later. I have always wanted to try to recreate it.

Steven November 24, 2017 - 6:34 pm

Thank you for your thoughtful post. We had (17) around our table(s) this year, including four generations and three babies! It was quite lively. Many blessings to you and yours – and thank you for sharing.

deborah November 25, 2017 - 3:27 pm

can you please share your family recipe?

Susan November 25, 2017 - 3:47 pm

Sharon your blog is always a joy to read and I learn so much about other places and people. My husband and I are in transition. When we were young and till our two boys grew up and married every Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve was celebrated with my husband’s family at his mother’s house. She made those holidays so special. Lots of wonderful foods and a very long table beautifully set. It was an amazing time, one I had not experienced growing up, and I miss it very much. Later as she grew too old to take on such a large task her DIL’s would share the responsiblity and have it in our homes, but usually at my house. Then as our children married the celebrations began to be about our individual families and everyone began to keep those traditions with their individual families instead of us all getting together. So for the last dozen or so years of my Mother-in-laws life my husband and I would take her and her spinster daughter to a restaurant or make a small dinner to take to her house on Thanksgiving day. Sadly she died this past April and I cried a lot this thanksgiving. We were blessed to have dinner with my oldest son’s wife’s family. I suppose next year we will go with my younger son. Or maybe we will find our own tradition. I am not sure what to do after so many years of joining in with, and taking care of my MIL. She will be very missed this year as we go into the holiday season. And I said all this to say cherish every moment with your family and the wonderful traditions you have. It doesn’t last forever but the memories are very sweet and they do last forever. God Bless. I hope your Christmas and New Years holidays are wonderful.

Ann Macnaughton November 25, 2017 - 4:01 pm

Hi Sharon, Greetings from chilly Ireland. Delighted you making the Christmas pudding! In my family a large Christmas cake, complete with both (real) almond and white icing are a must. Mine was cooked overnight in my Aga and now wrapped in greaseproof paper in my guest room. It will be “fed” with whiskey or brandy once a week until it is iced. This entails piercing with a narrow skewer & dropping a tiny amount of alcohol into the holes. Delicious! I have also made my mincemeat for tiny mince pies which I am sure you remember.
Thank you for your posts and photos which we envy in summer, given our mild, damp climate.
Continued good health and energy to you and your family this almost Christmas season.

Dottie Monta November 27, 2017 - 4:13 am

Enjoyed very much your explanations, Julia! I would like to taste a bite, slice, or forkful, though, and may just have to come to the U.K. to do so. Isn’t it nice of Sharon to bring us all together over such a unique topic!

Michelle November 29, 2017 - 7:24 pm

Would you be interested in sharing your recipe? That sounds like a fun tradition to kick off the Christmas season.

Susan M. Foley January 15, 2018 - 6:52 pm

We make our Christmas Pudding in September using my great, grandmother’s recipe. Mixing in my grandmother’s large bowl and grinding with her grinder are all beloved memories. Of course lighting the pudding on Christmas with the family all around is priceless.


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