What are your Thanksgiving traditions?

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Death by Variety © by lowjumpingfrog, used under Creative Commons license.

Offbeat Home reader Kyle wants to pick our brains about the things we do at Thanksgiving to force our families to interact in meaningful ways. Or maybe just force us to interact — my family Thanksgivings often include a lot of napping.

My husband and I just recently moved closer to our families and we were thinking it would be fun to start some new traditions at our now expanded Thanksgiving table. What sort of quirky, offbeat Thanksgiving traditions do you have?

While we were living overseas, we started a tradition with our friends: Talk goes around the table and each person shares their first world problems. Silly stuff like, “Well this year I didn’t get a Shamrock Shake at McDonald’s and now I have to wait until March for another chance.” The sillier and more aggrandized the better. We helped each other remember that even though our jobs and being so far away from home may stress us out, we still have the good life — but without it turning into sappy sermons about what we’re thankful for.

Even if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, hopefully you’ll find our reader’s answers helpful at some momentous occasion — and I’m sure you you’ve got traditions of your own to share!

Comments on What are your Thanksgiving traditions?

  1. My family has hosted every single Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember. All of my cousins and siblings were relegated to the end of the table when we were little because we were horribly disruptive and obnoxious… And we still are in our mid 20s! Every year my dad says a beautiful grace before the meal and our tradition as the kids is to crack up laughing throughout the whole thing. We still do to this day… Not the most mature tradition but as soon as everyone is seated we start giggling! Afterwards all the “kids” (the youngest being 22 now) still hike through the woods to the park behind my parent’s house and stay there until dark. It makes it seem like we’re all kids again… I hope we never get “too old” for this kind of tradition!

  2. My friend and I watch David Bowie movies/David Bowie related TV shows every Thanksgiving. We started the tradition by accident – the first time our families had Thanksgiving together we watched Labyrinth, and we’ve just kept going ever since – Flight of the Concords, Venture Bros, The Man Who Fell to Earth – hopefully we won’t run out!

  3. We always listen to “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie on xpn.org or wxpn on our radio. They always play it right after noon on Thanksgiving. My mom always makes pumpkin pie with a gooseneck pumpkin and it’s amazing. Other pies can’t compare for me anymore. This year after hanging out with my mom I am going to my in-laws and I’m bringing my “famous” clafoutis, which sounds like a venereal disease, but is actually a french dessert. Maybe that will be a new tradition.

  4. This is our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. We couldn’t afford to fly home from South Carolina to California to be with family and couldn’t really afford a major feast either, so we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving Charlie Brown style. Our meal was complete with toast, pretzel sticks, jellybeans and popcorn. We even used JiffyPop to make it slightly more authentic. And we finished it off with Strawberry sundaes. This probably won’t become a tradition for us, but it was a fun and somewhat adorable way to start off our lifetime of holiday celebrations. 🙂

  5. We have a non-tradition.

    My great aunt, the matriarch of the family used to make cherry pie. Nothing special, just your standard latice top cherry pie, but every year without fail, it was there. And then she got cancer and died.

    The next Thanksgiving was coming up and a cousin of mine asked, “Sooo…who’s going to make the cherry pie?” And my other great aunt, the new matriarch looked up from her book and said with a hilariously dead serious face, “You’ll never have cherry pie again.”

    We all busted out laughing, but it’s been ten years, and we still haven’t had cherry pie. It’s a bit of a nod to our Dear Aunt Lu.

  6. A fairly new tradition is a game of Apples to Apples (this goes especially well if everyone had a glass of wine with dinner, since this if my brother’s first year drinking it was especially interesting!). An older tradition is a viewing, on the biggest screen possible, which has sometimes meant an actual projection screen, of The Wizard of Oz. We also go round and say what each is thankful for. The year my little sister’s bf said he was thankful for meeting my sister and made a speech we knew he had it bad. A year later they were married. He is still getting razzed. An unofficial tradition is keeping the hell out of my mother’s way while she cooks. Every year we feel bad we are not helping more, and every year we are shooed out if we dare approach the kitchen. Also, breakfast. Having a big breakfast hours and hours before the turkey means those who can’t make it for dinner can still sit down with us for a feast.

  7. This year was mine and my man’s first thanksgiving together, just us. We’ve decided that two of the things we did need to stick around, since they were that awesome. We had a competitive Hand Turkey contest (including glitter, colored sharpies, feathers and felt), which we did while the turkey was cooking and then decorated the room with. It was a lot of fun. We also decided to use scrap booking paper as placemats, to try to make our table look more festive, and after dinner, we had a contest to see who could draw the best thing out of the spills and stains on their paper. This is actually a draw back to my old roommate and I’s first thanksgiving.
    We also watched movies and I was given the go ahead to start decorating for Christmas, so we designed our Christmas card in the evening, which makes me excited since they’ll be in the mail within a week and OMG ITS CHRISTMAS soon.

  8. We also have a jello tradition, but it is one that actually tastes good! Orange jello, 6oz of frozen oj, some ginger ale and mandarian oranges. Always a big hit.
    This was the first year of my life where someone other than my mother hosted Thanksgiving. My brother did a great job. We always try to do the big meal as a shared thing: one aunt always does sweet potatoes, another does green beans etc. It helps take some of the load off the the main host which is nice.
    We used to always have a tradition of playing board games with all of the cousins and then going to the movies on Friday. However, that has sadly gone by the wayside now that Thanksgiving is a one day event instead of a long weekend like in the past, and because we’ve grown up and gotten married and have other family commitments. My husband’s parents had a messy divorce when he was in elementary school so he doesn’t really have traditions of his own. I’m hoping we can build lots of great memories and traditions together. Love the ideas everyone has shared.

  9. My sister’s birthday occasionally falls on Thanksgiving, so we do a pinata. We all stand outside and we blindfold and spin the person around and let them go to town. It’s been a turkey for the past couple of years and It’s great because 1)some family member will yell misleading things like “left! no, no! OTHER LEFT!” 2)my dad is excellent at hitting people with the pinata when they miss. 3) When it breaks we all dive and yell “Don’t hit me!” 4) British brother-in-law thinks we’ve gone mad, drinks beer and laughs, then he gets a turn and misses.

    In conclusion, PINATAS ALL THE TIME.

  10. I’m Irish, and don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but all this talk of freaky Jello dishes makes me think of that bit from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life about ‘The Salmon Mousse’…dum dum DUUUUMMMM!!! http://youtu.be/4tIg2nK67LQ

    • I’m beginning to suspect that the freaky jello thing is a tradition started in like 1950’s suburban America. I found my grandmother’s mid-century recipe book, and it was full of clippings from newspapers and the backs of food cartons…and most recipes seemed to call for a lot of Jello and copious amounts of rice crispies cereal.

  11. Ooh, this thread is great! My family doesn’t do Jello, but we do all go around the table and say what we’re thankful for. It’s been hosted by my aunt and uncle for as long as I can remember, and they and my cousins are some of my favorite relatives, so I absolutely LOVE Thanksgiving. Some other things we do:

    1. Ever since I went away to college and traveled there separately from the rest of my family, I’ve gotten to stay in their basement, which I really love because I get more time with them (and privacy when I want).

    2. My aunt is more experimental and modern while my uncle is more traditional when it comes to Thanksgiving food, so they switch off who’s in charge every year and change the menu accordingly. I love my aunt’s roasted veggie medley in lieu of the more traditional mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallow, though those are good too.

    3. Thanksgiving salmon! In addition to turkey, there is always salmon for their pescatarian friends and three different kinds of stuffing, including oyster stuffing brought by said friends.

    4. We go on a walk in between dinner and dessert through the same park every year. It’s dark, there are lots of leaves, and it really defines fall for me. The only time I missed it was the year I was 21 and had lots of wine and was sleeping it off before dessert. 🙂

    5. My aunt and uncle also have friends who are professional and semi-professional musicians, so after dessert there is usually a jam session with lots of folk songs!

    6. My aunt is a substitute spinning instructor on the side, so on the Friday or Saturday after she’ll teach a class. A few of us go, sometimes just my uncle and me, but I’m looking forward to when my cousins are old enough. Then afterwards we have a huge breakfast with homemade biscuits (based on my aunt’s Appalachian grandma’s recipe), bacon and sausage, eggs, vegetarian sausage, tons of jams, etc. And we always have to play the biscuit song (How Many Biscuits Can You Eat, though I’m not sure of the version).

    Basically, Thanksgiving is hands-down my favorite holiday.

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