US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Weird, wacky, wonderful: Thanksgiving traditions

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Having a traditional Thanksgiving doesn't necessarily mean you have to be doing what "everybody else is doing." Sure there are turkeys and mashed potoates and stuffing on lots of tables on the fourth Thursday of November each year, but not every table.

Below, some of the U.S. Catholic editors share their Thanksgiving traditions. Please leave a comment and tell us what you and your family or friends like to do to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season.

Liz Lefebvre
Editorial Assistant

We have a pretty traditional Thanksgiving in my family, filled with lots of football, fun, and food. But every Thanksgiving night without fail we can be found in front of the TV watching The Late Show with David Letterman, guessing along with Dave as he tries to pick what kinds of pies his mom has baked and reviewing funny moments from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (and even sometimes watching Richard Simmons run around dressed as a giant turkey).

Meghan Murphy-Gill
Associate Editor
My husband Andrew and I usually have Thanksgiving here in Chicago to avoid the crazy holiday travel and to save money and vacation days for Christmas visits to out-of-town family. I admit it also has something to do with my loving to cook. Staying at home assures me control over the meal. For the past two years, we've been lucky to have my parents come visit and I get to boss them around. Last year, I instructed my dad to carve the turkey. This year I'll be charging my mom with making her favorite dish, whipped butternut squash. With the exception of the year we made Thanksgiving dinner-inspired ravioli (complete with a sage gravey), we prepare a traditional meal. Our wacky tradition takes place the day after Thanksgiving. When everyone else is out shopping, after we’ve decorated our small tree, we put on The Big Lebowski and drink white Russians.

Cathy O'Connell-Cahill
Senior Editor
We’ve seen the growth of a few great day-after-Thanksgiving traditions in our family.  My husband used to take my daughter to the circus that day, and that has now grown to an extravaganza involving aunts, uncles, and a tribe of cousins (even though the average age of the cousins is 16 now). Several of the adults have a love-hate relationship with the circus (Annoying ringmasters! Loud music! And what about those elephants?). They debate ditching this part of the event each year, but mostly they show up.  Then we all go out for lunch at Margie’s, a great tiny throwback ice cream parlor once visited by the Beatles.  Later in the day, we meet up with another crowd of cousins for a downtown outing to see the Christmas tree and the store windows in what used to be Chicago’s primo department store, Marshall Field’s, now obnoxiously referred to as Macy’s. Before having dinner, we go and walk around in Millennium Park, where last year a choir was singing carols.  A wonderful day.

Scott Alessi
Assistant Editor
Thanksgiving was never a big holiday in my house while I was growing up. My sister, for one thing, doesn’t like turkey, and it often seemed like we’d go through the trouble of gathering around the table for a traditional dinner because, well, it was tradition and that’s what you did. But in the past few years, with our families spread out across the country, my wife and I decided to start our own anti-tradition Thanksgiving tradition. One year, we headed out in search of an open pizza place and picked up a large white with spinach, which we enjoyed from the couch while watching a movie. Last year, we treated ourselves to a hearty tray of nachos with plenty of toppings. Instead of stressing over how to cook the turkey, who to invite, or what not to bring up at the table this year for fear it will cause an argument, we kick back quietly with a little comfort food, thankful for the one thing we don’t get much of during the rest of our hectic year: a chance to relax. And besides, we need to save up our energy, because Christmas is right around the corner.