It’s that time of year again when we meet with friends and family, drink eggnog, and and eat turkey and mashed potatoes. Thanksgiving. Each of us celebrates the holiday a bit differently, so we are here to share some of our Thanksgiving traditions.
Each November my mom’s side of the family gets together. And when I say my mom’s side, I mean all 30 of us, give or take depending on how many significant others are coming and how many members we’ve welcomed (hello nephews and nieces!). It’s a huge ordeal. We all take turns hosting, so we’ve celebrated the holiday in Oregon, California, and Nevada. This year we are heading to my aunt’s house in Reno, NV.
We spend the whole day cooking, snacking, and exchanging stories. My cousins and I will play board games, cards, or ping pong. My tias (aunts) and uncles usually gab away. It’s a giant crowd speaking in English and Spanish. My grandpa, whom we all call Lito (short for abuelito), is from a little town in Mexico, so my aunts and uncles are fluent, but the rest of us only know a little bit of Spanish. Sometimes Lito forgets that I’m not fluent and he starts speaking to me too quickly so I grab one of my tias to translate.
Before we start eating, Lito says a prayer, and we all hold hands. Dinner is always amazing, because my aunts and uncles have been doing this giant get-together thing for years so they have all the timing figured out perfectly. Then after dinner we have a ridiculous white elephant gift exchange. Sometimes the gifts are tasty (chocolate) or useful (pocket knives or flashlights), cheesy (candles or lotion), and sometimes they are just funny. One time Lito opened up his gift and it was a giant leg lamp, complete with fishnet stockings. His face was priceless. Another time we wrapped up my aunt’s car keys. She wasn’t too happy about that.
Besides eating and drinking too much, my cousins Elisa and Sean and I always play music for everyone with piano, guitar, viola or violin. Everyone always asks us to play songs we don’t know and we’re usually not prepared with music, but we do it anyways. As our family gets bigger, we might add some new traditions for the younger members of the family, but who knows? What I do know is that I am lucky I have such a large family that stays close to each other and continues this giant and wonderful Spanglish blur of Thanksgiving.
Although my Thanksgiving traditions have changed over the last few years, it does not make the day any less special for me.
Growing up, my family either went to my Uncle Doug’s house, or my Uncle Ed and Aunt Linda’s house for thanksgiving. We tended to alternate each year. I would always start the day off by watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in my PJs, while my mom prepared whatever it was that she was taking to dinner. From there we would all get ready to go, and get on the road. I look forward to Thanksgiving every year because of our family’s staple recipes. My Grandmas corn casserole and homemade cranberry sauce are to die for — I could eat just those two items for the whole meal and be content, honestly.Our dinner was always early, around 2 or 3, and then once we finished eating it was nap time. After an hour or two of everyone being practically comatose, we would get back together at the table for coffee and dessert. My family is very small, so every holiday for us is pretty low key; but I always liked it that way.
Now, most of my family is on the East Coast, so I haven’t had a Thanksgiving there in 5 years. Once I moved to Oregon we started new traditions in a way. Usually, my mom works so I am in charge of dinner. There are only 4 of us in the household, so it wasn’t too tough to make enough food for all of us. I will say, however, cooking my first turkey ever at the age of 16 was an interesting time. I had a lot of fun feeling like I was in charge of Thanksgiving :). In recent years I have celebrated Thanksgiving with my closest friends that I consider family. I am so grateful to be welcomed into so many families, it makes me feel as though my tiny little family has grown tenfold.
This year, we will be eating at our neighbors house. They were gracious enough to invite us into their family tradition, and my mother has the day off work so she gets to enjoy it with us. No matter how big your family is, or even if they are not blood related, Thanksgiving is a day to be grateful for the people you cherish in your life, and have time with them exchanging laughs across the dinner table. Everyone’s tradition is different, but I’m pretty content with mine.
Thanksgiving for my family seems to change every year. It goes from house to house, with no rhyme or reason, it just goes to whoever is available to have a house full of people for a day. The traditions change, when I was a child we would all say something that we were thankful for around a turkey at the dinner table, but now it’s just our family being thankful that we all get to see each other again. There are four grandchildren in the family that we celebrate my holidays with and as we grow older, moving further away from each other, holidays become the only time that we get to catch up.
The food rarely changes, a giant turkey, mashed potatoes, olives, green beans, and the only thing that matters in my eyes, stuffing. Nothing special, just original Stove Top stuffing, it always has been and probably always will be my favorite food of the holiday season.
Although Thanksgiving changes houses, and the amount of people that come varies every year, my traditions have stayed the same for as long as I can remember, waking up to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade and with any free time left at the end of the day watching the Thanksgiving themed “Friends” episodes (There is one for every season and thankfully they are all on Netflix now so I don’t have to go digging through my DVD collection anymore).
The one thing I can’t leave out, is the gearing up for Black Friday, I’m not one for the whole shopping craze, I do enjoy a good bargain, but what started as a day to get discounted electronics became an annual family adventure. It started back when I was around 13, I went to Walmart for a laptop and I stayed the night there, eventually falling asleep on a bag of dog food. It sounds rather uncomfortable (it was), but my grandma was there too, and we had so much fun just meeting all the different types of people that we’ve gone every year since, normally we leave all the stores empty handed, but we never are left without a story to tell.