Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Our Thanksgiving Family Traditions


In my family, the pleasure of hosting Thanksgiving dinner has bounced around from household to household over the years (this year marking the first feast at my very own apartment), but a few things always remain the same. In the week before the holiday, my mother and I inevitably make exorbitant amounts of cranberries. We both love them and use the holiday as an excuse to try different recipes—one year featured five different kinds. Luckily, cranberries keep for several weeks and often make a second appearance at Christmas. On Thanksgiving, I’m always up in time to watch the parade (even though it’s hardly changed in my 27 years of viewing), but I admit that my attention wanes once the Broadway shows are done performing. When dinner is served, everyone fights over the broccoli-rice casserole while doing their best to avoid the sweet potatoes. We generally retreat to bedrooms and couches for an afternoon nap before making turkey sandwiches in the evening. And no matter which city we’re in or who’s managed to gather, every Thanksgiving ends with games—Spoons is played first and then Sets and Runs once the kids are asleep. I do believe my favorite tradition might be seeing which McCarty sibling wins Spoons. Even as adults in our 20s and 30s with children of our own, we’re terribly sore losers and the last two players in Spoons are nearly always me and one of my siblings. (Watch this video for proof of our antics. I dare you not to laugh.)
 
As we approach the holiday, I’ve asked a few of my colleagues to share their own family traditions—old and new. Please share your own in the comments!
 
Thanksgiving is THE holiday in the Diamond household. My mother has been making Thanksgiving happen for our family since the year I was born. We have a strict Open Door Policy: Have nowhere to go for the holiday? No problem! Come to our house—just bring something filled with starch or sugar. Despite having had this tradition for 27 years, my mother calls me in a panic every year. "Oh my god, 40 people are coming! Where will they all sit? What will we feed them? And what about dessert?" You'd think we would have a system by now, but we simply don't. And to make matters more hilarious – my mother always throws a huge backyard barbecue the Saturday after the holiday. The barbecue is always twice the size of Thanksgiving itself, so I often come home to a flurry of Thanksgiving prep and stress, only to help make burgers a day later.  —Katie Diamond, Graphic & Media Production Coordinator
 
I have a very large family—10 of us to be exact—and that doesn't count the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who flock to our house every November hoping for some turkey. The exact number ranges from 16-25, so it gets a little crazy in the house. My grandpas, uncles and father always crash on the couch to watch football, while kids run around screaming, and my mom, aunt and grandmas take to the kitchen. This is where the great potato debate began. A few years ago, my aunt claimed that she made the best mashed potatoes. This proclamation angered the other women so much, that all four of them decided to make their own potato dish so that my family could vote for the best. That year my aunt won, but the great potato debate has raged on. I've now tried potatoes baked, fried, mashed, shredded, pancaked and filled with a variety of different herbs and veggies. It may be an odd tradition, but it’s one that seems to be sticking, despite the fact that my family now eats leftover potatoes until New Year’s Day.  —Ashley Hufford, Digital Media Apprentice
 
The year after I was married, my husband (who loves to cook) made a bid that Thanksgiving would be our holiday to host each year. The suggestion was met with great approval, especially from our mothers who were ready for a break! The invitations were made, the menu was set, the table laid, and dinner came off beautifully. As hostess, I took my job very seriously. I made sure glasses were full, appetizers were circulated, and conversations were friendly (meaning my father and father-in-law stayed away from politics). The day went by in yummy blur and soon people were heading home. I switched gears and packed up leftovers. Wanting to be generous, I did my best to give people nice portions for the next day. Unfortunately, I forgot one very important person in all this—my husband, the chef!  The next day, when he wanted to savor a turkey sandwich and watch the football game, he realized to his great horror that our fridge was filled with desserts, side dishes, and a single turkey leg. To say he was unhappy is an understatement. Chalking it up to a newlywed error, I was quickly forgiven, and promised to keep the chef happy the following year. Fast forward one year, and I repeated everything, including my overzealous leftover giveaway. My poor husband went to the store the Friday after Thanksgiving, bought a turkey breast and cooked it for himself. Ever since, one of our traditions is to cook a turkey AND an extra turkey breast to be sure we have enough for the all important post-Thanksgiving sandwich. —Lilaia Kairis, Director of Digital Services
 
I travel a lot as the Director of Artistic Programming, so my husband and I started a Thanksgiving that we absolutely adore: it involves no travel and plenty of time together, just the two of us.  On Thanksgiving, we call our families (who all live out of state) and then cook all day. We watch the Macy's parade and make Christmas lists and cook some more (football is always on, too). Late in the day, we finally eat and then watch a movie or one of the holiday specials on TV.  We have deemed the next day Second Thanksgiving—friends come over and we eat all our leftovers.  We celebrate together, around the table, and then everyone takes part in decorating our Christmas tree.  We play Christmas carols and parlor games and give thanks (a second time) for all that we have. —Mary Rose Lloyd, Director of Artistic Programming
 
If Thanksgiving is at my parents' home in Cleveland, my dad is responsible for the guest list. He's a math professor, so most of the invites go out to his international students and their families. One year, the table had representatives from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Canada, and Uganda. It was as if we were hosting our very own "first Thanksgiving" since only a quarter of the guests had ever celebrated Thanksgiving before. It was fun watching the kids play together without even a common language—though the best part is always the facial expressions of those tasting cranberry jelly for the first time! —Jamie O’Brien, Senior Manager / Web & Digital Services
 
Even as an adult, there is nothing like the magic of 11:50 on Thanksgiving morning.  After nearly 3 wonderful hours of balloons, floats, and marching bands comes the moment where Santa Claus appears in the Macy’s parade and the holiday season officially begins. I know that most commercials would like us to believe that happens back toward Halloween, but that’s always the moment for me.  As a kid, my mother would cook throughout the day as the rest of the household managed to pick at anything that wasn’t actually in the oven.  Extended family and friends would trickle in and the table would fill up, culminating in a feast that made you regret all that daytime snacking. Once the table was clear and guests had left, it was time for George Seaton’s Miracle on 34th Street to continue the enchantment that the morning had begun.  And as I settled down for a long winter’s nap, I would, for the first of many nights to follow, fall asleep to the cheerful sounds of Christmas music, thankful that the “most wonderful time of the year” was upon us again. —Matt Knowland, Manager of Operations, New 42nd Street Studios

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