Thanksgiving Traditions – Kitchola

Published by Recently Empty Nested

Thanksgiving traditions are not all the same, the similarity is that we all have them. No matter where they found their beginning, traditions are what make the holidays so fun and keep us looking forward to them year after year. Some traditions are handed down through the years, others we plan to start and still others are started quite by accident. Such is the case with our family’s very favorite Thanksgiving tradition, started nearly 25 years ago.

The Thankful Game

Our oldest daughter asked if she could teach us something her kindergarten class had done at their Thanksgiving feast. Given the green light, she taught us all to play “the thankful game”. She passed out dried corn kernels (popcorn) to everyone. As we went around the table each person took a turn saying what they were thankful for. As they did, they dropped their kernels into a small dish. At the end of the game the dish was full of gratitude, as we should be on Thanksgiving and everyday.

We have played the thankful game every year since then, creating our own versions of it, and now affectionately refer to it as “our thankful-fors”. Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without them. As the kids grew older their thankful-fors became more thoughtful, more meaningful and more heartfelt. There have been tears and laughter and all of it wonderful! Even guests, though not required, have participated. It is a very special Thanksgiving tradition. Last year one of our sons was out of state on a mission for our church. It was his first Thanksgiving away from family and we wanted him to feel he was still connected. I emailed everyone and asked them to put their thankful-fors in writing so that they could be compiled into an e-mail, our only form of communication with our son, and sent to him. It was awesome! He loved it! The following week in his e-mail to us he thanked us for including him and sent us his list of thankful-fors! A few kernels of corn nearly 25 years ago started a tradition I am confident will live on in our family for generations!

A relatively new Thanksgiving tradition is the Turkey Bowl! Many families and groups of friends have a Turkey Bowl – a game of football on Thanksgiving. We just started a couple of years ago, and oh what fun! We play touch football and the girls play too. Ours is not annual, as we do not always have enough family members to play, but when there are enough of them in town we head to the park. A very fun tradition!

Our Thanksgiving dinner itself is steeped in tradition. At my husbands mother’s home his brother prepares the bird, letting it sit over night in his special recipe brine. My sister-in-law makes the stuffing, and smoked oysters stink up the appetizer plate! (Ew!) When Thanksgiving dinner is prepared at our home there are always ham rolls and my daughter’s cheese ball. I taught her to make it once when she was younger and she has made it ever since.

Sometimes traditions can be altered and improved upon – and sometimes- its better to leave them alone! This is true even for the food! I recall the first Thanksgiving dinner I ever prepared. I was a young mother with four children. Each previous year we went to the home of our parents, but that particular year I decided I wanted to cook. My husbands family traveled from a neighboring state to join us in devouring my first turkey. I remembered my own mother basting her bird all day long, but I chose the way of my mother-in-law and used a Reynolds cooking bag. That is the way I have cooked my turkey to this day, and highly recommend it. It’s virtually full proof. Basting tradition banished!

I prepared the traditional menu; turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top and dinner rolls. Wanting to avoid a mishap like I had my first Thanksgiving with my in-laws, (when the rolls my mother-in-law had bragged up to the entire extended family failed to rise and I showed up empty handed) I used Rhodes frozen dinner rolls. Perfection. I have used them ever since. They too are practically impossible to mess up-you just have to start them thawing in time. No fail dinner roll tradition a win!

I wasn’t as fortunate with some of my other choices however. Seeing as this was my Thanksgiving dinner I decided to give the stuffing a new twist by adding slivered almonds and dried cranberries. I thought it was genius and a bit gourmet – another family member thought it was… “hm, different”. That was the first and last year I added anything to the stuffing! It would be several years later that my sister-in-law would make her grandmother’s stuffing recipe containing browned sausage. That is the recipe that stuck – so delicious!

This year I plan to try the cranberry salad that is a traditional menu item in the home of my daughter’s in-laws. she and her mother-in-law made the heirloom recipe together at the first Thanksgiving she spent with her husbands family.

I love traditions! I enjoy looking back at where we came from and how it has all changed yet remained the same. Thanksgiving traditions bind us as family and friends, create lasting memories and keep us coming back. At kitchola we hope you enjoy your holiday your way! Stick with tried and true traditions if you want but don’t be afraid to try something new. If it’s not a winner, I’m sure they will let you know! Happy Thanksgiving!