Mom’s 20-Year-Old Holiday Tradition is One You’ll Want to Adopt This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving tablecloth

Every family has their own fun and unique holiday traditions. Some are pretty straight forward—like watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, eating a special dish on Christmas Eve or going to a town event to celebrate the season. The best kinds of traditions, though, are those that are quirky and specific to your tribe.

In 2000, a Missouri woman came up with her own special tradition to cherish her family’s Thanksgiving celebrations year after year. Two decades later, the project is still going strong!

The mother of a blended family, Deb Mills began having each person who joins her clan for Thanksgiving dinner sign her white tablecloth.

“We set out to make some very special family traditions that are all our own,” she explained. “Back in 2000, I got out this plain white tablecloth, and put it on the table, and my teenage kids looked at me like I was crazy when I said, ‘I want you to sign this tablecloth.’ Then a few years later, the [grandchildren] came along, and now we have 20 years of memories on the tablecloth.”

thanksgiving tablecloth

Every Thanksgiving, each of the Mills’ guests—close friends and family—all sign their name using the same colored pen, which changes color each year. Along the edge is a color code, and throughout the year, Deb hand-embroiders each signature to make the tablecloth much more durable.

“The most important thing is we have the names, the signatures of those that have been dear to us through the years that are no longer with us,” an emotional Mills said, fighting back tears.

Their daughter Mary died suddenly a few years ago at the age of 44. A ruptured aneurysm has left a big hole in the family’s heart. But Mary’s signatures on the tablecloth are a seasonal reminder that she’s right there with them.

thanksgiving tablecloth

“We lost a daughter four years ago, and it is very special to be able to put that tablecloth on the table each Thanksgiving and there is Mary’s name and she’s among us. As well as my mother and my husband’s father. Those three signatures are irreplaceable to us at this point, and I’m sure that tablecloth is irreplaceable to our four remaining kids and 10 grandkids and anybody else that has sat our table.”

thanksgiving tablecloth

As you can imagine, there are some names scribed on the tablecloth that are better left in the past.

“When the kids were younger, they would say, ‘If we invite so and so and we break up, then what?’” Mills laughs. “And that has happened. But we have gravy boats strategically placed for just that reason.”

thanksgiving tablecloth

Deb’s tablecloth tradition has inspired others to follow in her footsteps. Several of her friends have started tablecloths of their own, or plan to at the table this year. Deb says she’s flattered and excited to have some of these ladies over to embroider the names alongside her for years to come.

More than anything, she explains, “We are so blessed with such a great family. Families are of extreme importance, and making memories and traditions that carry on to the next generation is so irreplaceable.”

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Bri Lamm
Bri Lamm is the Editor of! An outgoing introvert with a heart that beats for adventure, she lives to serve the Lord, experience the world, and eat macaroni and cheese all while capturing life’s greatest moments on one of her favorite cameras. Follow her on Facebook!