You're Going To Want To Steal This Family's Incredible Thanksgiving Tradition

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 
Image via ABC News

This family’s Thanksgiving tablecloth is the coolest holiday tradition ever

The holiday season’s upon us and with it, the usual traditions of fruit cake and family photos, Christmas carols and fights about politics. We look forward to some, but others? Not so much. One family has a 16-year tradition that everyone will kick themselves for not starting with their own crew years ago, but take heart — it’s never too late to make something this unique and meaningful.

Deb Mills, of Clinton, Missouri, started a yearly Thanksgiving tradition 16 years ago that’s come to mean a great deal to her family. She tells ABC News that as a blended family, they wanted to do something special all their own during the holiday season. “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 16 years of memories on the tablecloth.”

And we’re sure they’re now very glad they went along with it. Check out their handiwork over the years.

Mills explains that the tablecloth holds so much more meaning than simply noting how everyone’s signatures have changed over the years. “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.” As she starts to tear up, Mills says, “Particularly, we lost a daughter three 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.”

Well. There goes any hope I had for writing this without crying.

Image via ABC News

Also, don’t think everyone is signing all willy-nilly in any color they like. Mills has a system to keep things organized and on-theme. “Each year is done in a different color, and along the edge I have the color code,” she explained. “For 2015 we have royal blue because the Kansas City Royals won the World Series. Then I hand-embroider it through the winter months. That makes it much more durable.”

Image via ABC News

As a novice embroiderer myself, I know how much work that is. Mills’ commitment to this beautiful family heirloom is nothing short of heart-warming. Over the years, she’s included more than just signatures — footprints of new babies and graduation hats adorn the cloth to commemorate happy celebrations. However, Mills notes that some years, what’s put on the tablecloth stays on the tablecloth. “When the kids were younger, they would say, ‘If we invite so and so and we break up, then what? And that has happened. But we have gravy boats strategically placed for just that reason.”

And you know what? With family comes memories, and they aren’t all going to be rosy. It’s actually pretty amazing to have a running log of each Thanksgiving spent together, even if some guests don’t end up making an encore appearance the following year. Besides being a wonderful keepsake, we imagine this tablecloth is a fun conversation starter and a great way to get everyone talking about years past.

Because what else are holidays for?

Mills has inspired friends to take on her tradition with their own families. “It’s just a little special tablecloth to us. It’s no big deal. But people are now planning on starting it this Thanksgiving. These are younger girls, and I’ll have them over to show them how to embroider it for years to come.”

Even though she’s started a fun new trend, Mills hasn’t lost sight of the tablecloth’s true purpose. “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 are so irreplaceable.”

This article was originally published on