Making Thanksgiving Traditions

| November 19, 2023 | 13 Comments

When I was little, we would always gather at my grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving. It was a feast for the senses. The aromas of roast turkey, sage dressing, and sweet potatoes with warm cinnamon and maple syrup permeated the air. My aunt would roast the turkey at her house, making two different kinds of stuffing: sausage and one without. My mother made mashed turnips (which I disliked as a child and still don’t like very much!). I remember her spending a long time in the morning peeling and slicing the unwieldy roots while my brothers and I would watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. My great-grandmother made a gelatin and fruit concoction that she called Judge Peter’s Pudding; my grandmother continued to make it for every holiday after Great-Grammie died (and she swears that a man named Judge Peter personally gave her the recipe, but Google says otherwise).

Chances are, you can think back to your childhood and remember special Thanksgiving traditions, too! For most of us, these are warm, fuzzy feelings filled with family and warmth and delicious smells and tastes. And one day, our kids will have these strong memories of Thanksgiving past, along with traditions to pass on to their children.

As the house filled with family, the rooms buzzed with laughter and storytelling. After we had our fill, the conversation would turn to pie. My aunt’s apple pie with hand-rolled crust and gently spiced filling was stellar, but I always saved room for my grandmother’s chocolate silk pie. With its airy mousse filling and whipped cream topping, it was divinely smooth and rich. A small slice would satisfy any sweet tooth. To cut the sweetness, I’d pair it with a child-sized glass of tart cranberry juice cocktail.

My family lives far away from our extended family now, so we don’t get to see them on the holidays unless we’re traveling. Still, we do have a few Thanksgiving traditions that we have worked to keep up over the years:

  • We put up a Thanksgiving tree! In our case, it consists of scrapbook-page leaves decorating one of our walls. Everyone (family member and visitor) is invited to write down some things they’re thankful for and tape them to the tree throughout November. Now that my family is spread farther apart, we honor those memories with our own new traditions. We put up a “Thankfulness Tree” with paper leaves where we’ve written things we’re grateful for this year.
  • We have special foods that we always serve on Thanksgiving. These include traditional foods like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and corn. We also always make deviled eggs, put out a tray of different types of olives, and mix pearl onions into our peas (this last one is a throwback from my childhood Turkey Days).
  • The kids always watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We all get a kick out of the floats and like watching the entertainment. While watching the Macy’s parade on TV, I’ll bake my grandmother’s chocolate silk pie for dessert.
  • We almost always have visitors! Some years, we have an exchange student staying with us, which is very special because as Thanksgiving is an American holiday, it’s their first time celebrating. Sometimes we have family visiting from up north, and sometimes a friend comes for the meal. And a few times, it’s been a mix of all of the above!

Some families enjoy putting up their Christmas trees after Thanksgiving dinner. And many people get dressed in the evening to get a head start on Black Friday sales! Other traditions may be watching seasonal movies, starting to play seasonal music, volunteering at a homeless shelter or nursing home, and going for a family hike in the afternoon. No matter what your traditions are, it’s fun to start some and to continue them throughout the years. Your kids will love looking back on these memories when they’re adults!

What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving traditions?

Comments (13)

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  1. amy says:

    Funny you mentioned the 2 types of stuffing. We have 2 as well, but one w/ oysters and one with not. And speaking of the T’giving Day parade, I used to watch it as a kid as well. Did you see it this am? Totally different. I wanted to share this with my 3 year old b/c he LOVES parades but it was totally lame to only see talking heads and Broadway segments. We changed the channel to the parade in Philly….much better!

  2. Karen Glatt says:

    Very interesting post! I too have some great Holiday Traditions starting with us all putting the tree up after dinner on Thanksgiving! Listening to Christmas music during this,and watching a movie together with the family! We always invite others over that might not have a place to go, and we have a great time with family and friends! I too have to have deviled eggs,olives sweet potato casserole and the green bean casserole!

  3. Wei Chiew says:

    Love it!

  4. Robert Pyszk says:

    We love Thanksgiving, one of our traditions is breaking the wishbone 🙂

  5. denise smith says:

    really love the idea thanks

  6. Bonnie Fisher says:

    We all make pies together the night before. Love our Thanksgiving tradition. We teach the little ones all our cooking secrets

  7. Anne says:

    We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here but we do Christmas. One tradition is to never forget to serve noodles or spaghetti during Christmas dinner. It is said that the long strands of the noodles or the pasta will bless each member of the family with long life. It may sound like a superstition but we got used to the notion of having those dishes on Christmas eve.

  8. Ivan says:

    We start playing Christmas music and watching Christmas movies the day after Thanksgiving.

  9. Jennifer Mae Hiles says:

    I love the idea of a Thanksgiving tree – how festive! We always get excited to put up the tree before Thankgiving but normally wait until after, now I will have an excuse to put it up early.

  10. Marie says:

    I’ll try some of these! Thanks for the tips and cool traditions.

  11. Faith Bosnick says:

    Christmas music usually starts playing on Thanksgiving and after dinner we put up the Christmas tree. On Thanksgiving morning we always watch the parade (a tradition that started when I was a little girl).

  12. Chrystal D says:

    We always try to add some different dishes to the meal to keep it interesting!

  13. Liza says:

    These are cool tips!

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