Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Traditions

As a history teacher for 8th grade middle-schoolers I always found it appealing to diverge from the curriculum during the holidays. Knowing that my mind was definitely fixated on the festivities, I didn't want to have my students struggle to focus on someone else's history when they were much more interested in their own. So, starting with Halloween and ending with the December holidays, I assigned three different "Traditions" papers. The papers dealt with the child's individual family traditions for the holiday in question. Halloween, being the first and the one with the least traditions, always perplexed my classes and yielded the least stellar examples of writing. The Thanksgiving Traditions paper was my favorite. The students started to identify with what were truly unique traditions to their families and what bonded them. I would collect these assignments on this, the Monday of Thanksgiving week, and for the next three class sessions have the children set in a large circle and give a short presentation of their traditions based on the paper they had written. This assignment, though seemingly a time waster, actually was quite difficult and academic. The students were graded on content, writing/grammar, and their oral presentations. They were made to dissect the common activities of the days surrounding these major holidays and reflect on why they are the traditions their families hold dear. This is no easy task for most, but especially for 13-14 year old children. What I found as their teacher was a common thread woven around each child's family. From watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, to turkey roasting in the oven, and to football being a large part of Thanksgiving celebration. But I also found the most interesting nuggets that sparked wonderful ideas to bring to my own traditions. So, for that reason I am resurrecting the "Thanksgiving Traditions" directive here.
Please list your family's Thanksgiving Traditions. From menu to travel plans, television viewing to shopping, and holiday decorating to sleeping on the couch, list your Thanksgiving weekend traditions for all of us to read and enjoy. Not into writing in essay form? Use bullets! Not sure what you do? Ask the "boss" of the house (she'll tell you!). Traditions changed recently? Explain why! What I learned as a teacher and now as I writer, it's that we are more alike than dissimilar. That our habits and traditions tend to be related during these celebratory occasions, but when we have differences they are fascinating to read about and sometimes enticing to try for ourselves and our families. Help me to shine the light on the various Thanksgiving Traditions of my readership. And, for those of you in charge, did you take the bird out to thaw yet? It's probably time to do so!

Happy Thanksgiving Week to you all!


  1. Well not being from the USA we have no family TG traditions but I shall attempt to start a house TG tradition if I recover from a very persistent flu by Thursday :-)

  2. My traditions revolve around the big dinner, of course. As hosts my husband and I plan the menu, get the bird, and thaw it to be ready for roasting on Thanksgiving morning. While the bird is being prepped and stuffed, my husband's job, one that he excels, I am tuned in to the morning news that will become the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade coverage. This tradition dates back to when I was a child! I watch religiously and cannot tear myself away, even if I don't know who is "famous" or "in" right now! I still long to see the enormous balloons, familiar floats, the holiday-themed commercials, and the Broadway revues. Finally, I am satiated when Santa Claus closes the parade majestically and ushers in, officially, the start of the holiday/Christmas season.
    Meanwhile, I am prepping the side dishes as those are my jobs. From mashed potatoes to sweet potato casserole, from fresh greens (string beans are my favorite) to cranberry sauce with fresh strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, and from warm rolls to traditional pumpkin pie with Cool Whip (of course!) we have a full menu to prepare!
    A walk is usually in order at some point on Thanksgiving Day. We have a gorgeous hiking area directly behind our home and there is nothing better to get one's appetite in gear than hitting the trails.
    Some other traditions for Thanksgiving weekend in our house revolve around the next holiday - Christmas. We decorate our tree and home annually on Black Friday. We also take our family Christmas card picture during Thanksgiving Weekend. Finally, I adore watching certain Christmas movies this weekend. From childhood I would always watch Miracle on 34th Street with Natalie Wood. This, coupled with my viewing of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, capped my celebration beautifully and put me in Santa-mode! Later my husband and I added watching the Bill Murray vehicle Scrooged after putting our tree up. This is still one of our all-time favorite versions of Dicken's A Christmas Carol.
    Our traditions are not so unusual nor particularly fascinating - but I like them that way. Traditions are merely the things you do year in and year out and I just feel blessed to have a table to seat my family with delicious foods to place upon it. I'm thankful for my three healthy, loving, and adorable children and my most wonderful husband. I am thankful my parents and my in-laws are all living and vital and able to spend time with us. I am thankful for the opportunity to write and have such an amazing and loyal readership. I am thankful that I am grateful and can easily concoct a gratitude list.
    Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving Week.
    I hope you continue to join me daily as I'll be here with another new blog. I am thankful for that, too!

  3. I LOVE Thanksgiving! It is my FAVORITE holiday, even over Christmas. There seems to be less stress attached to it. I love to cook Thanksgiving dinner. Growing up my favorite Thanksgiving dinners were the ones at my Grandparents house. My grandfather made a stuffing that I couldn't wait for. My grandmother always expected our (my brother and I) Christmas Wish Lists when we came for Thanksgiving. I was always beyond prepared. She had no reason to not be able to find something I really liked. ;)
    When my grandfather passed away, no one took over making the stuffing- this bothered me. So, when I got married I asked for the recipe and not only did I get the recipe, I got it written in his own hand (the original copy). He had BEAUTIFUL handwriting. It is a cherished piece of paper in my cookbook.
    So every year we have the same menu. Although cooking methods of the turkey have changed a couple of times.

    Houchen Thanksgiving Dinner Menu:
    -Fresh Green Salad, Mandarin Oranges, & pine nuts w/Balsamic Vinaigrette
    -Roasted Turkey
    -Grandpa Jimmy's Corn Bread Stuffing
    -Mashed Golden Potatoes
    -Glazed Baby Carrots w/ Dill
    -Fresh Green Beans- steamed
    -Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

    I'm not sure what dessert will be this year. My youngest will probably request pumpkin pie, where I just cheat and make a pumpkin mousse pie with cool whip and canned pumpkin in a graham cracker crust.

    This year my in-laws have been invited back after a little hiatus. My mother-in-law has already expressed that she is looking forward to the stuffing! Woo hoo! My daughter has told me that she will make the stuffing whenever I get to the age that I can't make it anymore or if I die. This does my heart good.

    Since I grew up on the West Coast, I always missed the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. I was NOT going to get up to watch a parade when I didn't have to be up for school! Now, I record it and have it playing while putting finishing touches on the house and prepping ingredients for the meal. Which reminds me... I need to make the corn bread tomorrow!! YIKES!

    The day after Thanksgiving, you will NEVER see me shopping. I don't like the crowds of malls to begin with, I feel claustrophobic and anxious in a sea of people who don't pay attention to their surroundings. I just enjoyed a great meal the day before, I don't want to ruin it with rude people.

    My dad and I would watch the Nebraska/Colorado football game. This year will be the last one, since Nebraska is changing divisions next year. It is the ONLY game I watch all year (college football anyway). I still have it on the TV, although if WVU is playing on Friday, we'll have that on too for my father-in-law.

    The day after Thanksgiving marks the day that I can comfortably listen to Christmas music. I don't start decorating for Christmas until December 1st. I like to keep the Fall decorations around a little bit longer.

    OH! A leftover sandwich that you might like to try is called the Vermonster:
    -Toasted Sourdough bread
    -Cranberry Mayonnaise (mix some cranberry sauce with your favorite mayo to taste)
    -Cabot sharp cheddar sliced thin
    -Roasted turkey slices
    -Sliced Granny Smith Apples
    Eat it up! This is my husband's favorite leftover food. :)

  4. We always had my mothers chicken livers and stuffed blue cheese celery. She only made them at holiday time, and we all looked forward to having them.
    Also, for Christmas, with everyone having so many different family obligations it was hard to get together. One year my sister found all my mothers old recipes and put them in a notebook and gave it to all the family members for Christmas. We then decided that rather than get together on Christmas, we would have a "Family Recipe Party" in January after things calmed down. We each bring a new recipe of our own, which we prepare at the party, and bring written copies to put into the notebook. It has now grown to include all the cousins.
    The important thing is that we get as a family, without having to worry about what time we have to leave to go to the "In-law's" and no one person is responsible for all food preparation.