by Christina Lianos
(originally posted on AMW blog November 24, 2009)
As a Canadian living in the United States, I have always marveled at the importance given to the Thanksgiving holiday. Naturally, I celebrated Thanksgiving in Canada and the spirit of the holiday is very similar to our friends south of the 49th.
In the United States, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November and it is by all accounts, a holiday that has become equally or possibly more recognized and anticipated than Christmas. Giving thanks is a tradition that transcends all creeds and religions and so this secular holiday is observed and cherished by so many. And beyond the modern tradition of football, food and the Macy’s Day Parade – it is a time for families to gather and express thanks for material and spiritual gains.
And eat food. Lots of food.
Today’s Thanksgiving tradition may be different and varied, with an abundance of traditional and non-traditional fare. I asked people to share their holiday traditions with me and in doing so, I found the one common thread among young and old, is the spirit of remembering and acknowledging all that we are thankful for.
And during these uncertain times, I cannot think of a better time to be thankful for all that I have.
“I think my Thanksgiving traditions are pretty similar to a lot of American families. I’m from the South Side of Chicago, which is largely Irish Catholic, and my family is no exception. My mom is one of ten kids, and she and all of her siblings still live on the South Side. On Thanksgiving, several of my aunts and uncles and their spouses and children, as well as my dad’s aunt, gather at my parents’ house. Before dinner, there is always a football game on tv, and depending on who is playing (we are huge Chicago Bears fans), there is usually a football game on tv during and after dinner as well.
The meal is pretty traditional – turkey, stuffing, cranberries, potatoes, green bean casserole, etc. My mom cooks the turkey and stuffing, but everyone brings something to share, whether it is an appetizer, side dish, or dessert, and usually everyone brings wine or beer to share. I try and help my mom however I can, but usually she just tells me to get out of the kitchen and set the table. One of these days she’s going to tell me that I’ve been out of the house for long enough that it’s time I start making something on my own to bring over – scary!
After dinner, some of my other aunts and uncles and my grandmother come by from wherever they had been for dinner, have dessert, and then we play Trivial Pursuit – usually boys against girls (and the girls usually win). Most of us kids are high school age and older, and everyone is eager to show off how smart they are now, so the game can get pretty intense. This year I had three cousins go off for their first year of college, so it will be kind of a special Thanksgiving for them.
Sometime later in the evening I leave to go grab a drink with a few friends who may be down south having dinner with their parents as well, and we always toast to the fact that we’re still coming down to our parents’ house for Thanksgiving, and that we are still friends, after all these years.”
“My memories of Thanksgiving are wonderful. All of the relatives were invited and everyone came. It did not matter whether there was a place to sit or not. It did not matter who was talking or not talking to each other. We squeezed you in. Additional tables were placed leading into the main table. 20-25 people all sat down at once to eat Tom Turkey!All of us were grateful for the bountiful table. Special dishes were made depending on who liked what. It was not possible to taste everything that was on the table. All of us were grateful that everyone we loved was there and still alive to share this great holiday.
Our Thanksgiving was a special time for all of us to be together to give thanks for the good life we had. I had a very warm loving family. My memories and pictures of all who celebrated this holiday are cherished.”
Then came the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Day Parade. We all watched it on the television. Later in the early evening we had fresh turkey sandwiches on bread with butter and football games to watch on TV.
“So here’s my little bit of tradition. My oldest was born Thanksgiving week. So we call her the turkey baby and ever since, we have always celebrated her Birthday on the day of Thanksgiving, just because all of her family is present that day anyway. All of the other traditions are the usual for most Italian Families: Have to have an antipasto and a pasta/soup dish before the main course: Turkey with sausage stuffing. And of course, we give thanks by just saying thanks to God for another year and for all of those in our lives!”
My own Thanksgiving tradition has evolved since coming to the US. As a Greek-Canadian married to Dutch naturalized American, with our gang of American born children (I’m still amazed that they recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the Star Spangled Banner) and without any immediate family nearby, we have been “adopted” by our friends who are equally displaced and call on other friends to celebrate this holiday together. And though we joined our friends 7 years ago, their tradition has been in place for 20 years, and hosted in many places or towns in and around New York City.
The meal always consists of turkey, and gourmet renditions of all the traditional fare: roasted winter vegetables, savory herbed dressing, squash and sweet potatoes, apple and pumpkin pies, all lavishly spread on a table of richly hued china and crystal. One year we enjoyed triple layer chocolate pumpkin cake, with chocolate leaves and marzipan pumpkins. Another year it was a rich pumpkin cheesecake. And one year the hostess was traveling in the Far East, but the tradition was never broken.
Somehow, despite the soporific effects of wine mixed with carbohydrate laden foods and tryptophan tripped out turkey, my United Nation of displaced friends always find the energy to dispute and argue domestic and global issues … and above all be thankful.
Christina Lianos is a mother of three spirited girls. She holds an advanced degree in JugglingCareerandHome and is certified in Premature Dementia. She is also fluent in both Chaos & Insanity. In her spare time, she works in New York in Corporate HR.