This Tuesday we are putting aside our twenty-somethingness and simply taking some time to be thankful for our Thanksgiving traditions!
There are so many things I love about Thanksgiving, as it is arguably my favorite holiday. The dishes that can only be prepared by certain people—Aunt Kaye is the only one allowed to make deviled eggs—the camaraderie, seeing my cousins and catching up on what we’ve missed, and the discussions. In my family there are three talking points: Alabama football going back to the beginning, the government and how we’re screwed or not, and God. Even with all this, my favorite thing is that after our big meal me and my cousin Katie will go to her room, pick out a movie, and hang. It seems silly, but I hardly get to talk to her and I treasure the time I get to spend with her and the rest of my family.
The best part about Thanksgiving (aside from all the food) is mandatory nap time. It’s one of the few times of the year that, no matter the age, napping is a complete necessity after eating your body weight in turkey and mashed potatoes. Another favorite tradition? Sneaking little bites of pumpkin pie to my Beagle. It’s hands down her favorite holiday because she has the biggest sweet tooth of the family (and as soon as she smells the pumpkin pie, she knows what time of year it is). And while my family currently lacks in the baby cousin/niece/nephew department, all my older sisters bring over their pups (sometimes totaling more than six in the house). Forget football watching; we have puppies to play with and snuggle.
My grandparents are from South America, but they’ve completely embraced American Thanksgiving. Along with staples like mashed potatoes, turkey, and my mom’s roasted green beans, we always start the meal off with empanadas. In South America, empanadas are half-moon-shaped turnovers that can be sweet or savory; my grandmother always stuffs them with diced chicken, hard boiled egg, and raisins. Our traditions have changed over time as well. Last year, my cousin was diagnosed with a gluten allergy, but instead of letting that limit what she could eat, my family ended up making twice as much food—all of our favorites cooked the traditional way, and then the same dishes in gluten-free form! The number of desserts was staggering.
We affectionately describe Thanksgiving in our family as “Rando Thanksgiving” because the table is usually half-filled with people we’ve never met before. There are friends of old neighbors and the college roommate of our second cousin and the new family that just moved in around the corner. Anyone and everyone is invited to eat pie and stuffing with us on Thanksgiving Day. As a kid this drove me crazy—I had no interest in using manners or making small talk with people I would likely never see again, but I’ve come to appreciate the fascinating people I’ve met and the kindness of my family.
We tend to eat a Thanksgiving lunch, instead of the traditional dinner. It means I get to look forward to two meals that day: the main feast, and then a late dinner consisting of leftover turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy over a piece of sandwich bread.
My family is pretty low-key about the holidays, so our day mostly revolves around lounging and eating. But every year my mom has us list the top ten things for which we’re thankful. Everyone writes their list, then we read them aloud. The best part, though, is reading past lists. The random things that have made it in the top ten over the past 25 years are hilarious. This is the first year I won’t be back for Thanksgiving, and so my partner and I wrote out lists to send to my mom to keep the tradition going!
I have a couple of favorite Thanksgiving traditions. The first things are my grandma’s pecan tarts and her bean empanadas. When they’re straight out of the oven, the pecan tarts still stick to your teeth and it’s the most amazing thing. Bean empanadas are basically folded fried tortillas with refried beans inside. Obviously healthy. My most favorite tradition, though, is the thankful circle my family makes before we start eating. If space permits, we circle around the table, join hands, and say whatever it is we’re thankful for. It brings a little solemnity to the festivities, and I’ve always liked it.
For years my family went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for Thanksgiving. A gaggle of kids, dogs, and more food than you could possibly imagine. Half the time we may not know most of the folks at the table, and if anything that made it all the more authentic. What better way to celebrate the coming together of different cultures and traditions than having a gaggle of folks sharing a meal together? The plates never matched as we all piled into a small beach cottage, the tables were jammed closely to one another, but the food was plentiful, the music loud, and the kids always mischievous. A terribly unrelated to anything holiday oriented play was put on (at one point in time it was recreation of the Dixie Chick’s song “Earl Had to Die”) and afterward, a bonfire and mortars would be the crown to an already raucous good time.
My family heads to Dallas for the annual Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game every year! This tradition started a few years ago after a few failed and uneventful Turkey Days. My brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all live in different states, and Thanksgiving has never been a holiday that my family travels for. That said, after my brothers moved away, Thanksgiving was just my mom, dad and me. Cooking a whole feast for three seemed pointless, so my parents decided we would make Thanksgiving really special by going to the game. I have to say, I don’t miss the meal as much as you would think, because I get what really matters—awesome and memorable experiences with my parents.