It’s Thanksgiving season! The time of the year when we give thanks for all that we have, spend lots of time (sometimes even too much time) with our families and eat food until we need to put on our stretchy pants. This time of the year comes with different traditions for every family. Whether it’s going to play football in the park, cooking dinner together or being a designated taste-tester, most families in America have Thanksgiving traditions. Depending on who you ask, those traditions might get…well, let’s just say wacky.

In my family, holidays are a big deal. We always go all out, and Thanksgiving is no exception. My Thanksgiving celebrations have always begun the Wednesday before turkey day. When I was younger, I would go to my aunt’s house and we would spend the whole day cooking together. We would go to the store early in the day to get all of our ingredients and then go back to her house. Then we would spend the rest of the day together, having fun and preparing for our Thanksgiving meal. Later that night, when we were done, we would meet up with the rest of our family and all go out for dinner. It was nice to spend the whole day surrounded by my family and appreciate all that I have been blessed with. 

  More recently, I have been having a mother-daughter lunch with some neighborhood friends the day before Thanksgiving. I go out to lunch with my mom, and my friend and her mom, and we always have the best time! We spend the whole day enjoying each other’s company, and again being thankful for all that we have. 

On Thanksgiving day, my plans are a little more hectic than the day before. I’m from Chicago, and both of my parents’ families live in Chicago, too. So, we split times between both families on Thanksgiving. Now, you might be thinking that there is no way you eat dinner at both places, but actually, I do. And let me tell you, it has taken me years to perfect how to eat two dinners without getting way too full! We start our Thanksgiving journey on my dad’s side, at my aunt’s house, where there are about 27 of us in total. We all catch up and spend time just hanging out with one  another. Usually, after dinner there, my family leaves and goes to my other aunt’s house, this time on my mom’s side. Most of the time, on the drive to my aunt’s house, I take a quick power nap so that I’m refreshed for seeing more of my family and conquering dinner number two. On my mom’s side there are about 15 of us who gather together. Much like my dad’s side, we all catch up and enjoy time spent together. 

Thanksgiving with my family is one of my favorite times of the year because I get to see my big family all together and be thankful for all that I have been given. While I think my Thanksgiving traditions are fun and unusual, I’ve heard about some other traditions from some of my friends who quickly proved me wrong. 

When I first told my friends that I was writing about Thanksgiving traditions, one of my good friends spoke right up. 

 “Oohh I have a weird tradition…I watch funerals with my family…and they aren’t even of anyone we know,” she said.

Of course, my initial reaction was, “What the heck??” But, then she explained it to me and it began to make sense. She said the reason they watch the funerals is to remind themselves how lucky they are to be able to gather as a whole family and know that everyone is still there. While it is an interesting tradition, they are showing their gratitude, and it comes from the same place as everyone else’s traditions. When you boil it down, her family is doing what everyone else does during this time—being thankful for their family and the gifts they have been given, even if there is a weird twist to it.    

Another one of my friends explained to me that her Thanksgiving is just full of fun and games. She goes to her aunt’s house, where they start out watching lacrosse until dinner is ready. Before dinner they pray, but with a fun twist…they sing their prayers. They sing about the Lord being good to them and how they have been given so much. At the end, her uncle ends with a very deep “Amen.” Then the rest of her night is full of games with her family. They play one game where they get a spoon full of whipped cream and then try to fling it onto other family members. She said that with this game, “your head needs to be on a swivel because someone might be coming for you and you don’t want to end up covered in whipped cream.” 

They also play games like Telestrations and Halli Galli. Halli Galli is a German board game that her family takes very seriously. One of her cousins broke her finger playing it one year! In the end, what her family embodies during the Thanksgiving holiday is having fun and making the most of the time they have with one another. 

For the past 18 years, my Thanksgivings have looked the same; but, this year might be different then the rest, and I might not be the only one who has to change plans. Due to COVID-19, Thanksgiving this year will be looking very different for many Americans. The usual large gatherings might be put on hold this year and this holiday might be looking a lot like Easter, which was spent with only the people in your household. This Thanksgiving season will have to be played by ear because of these uncertain times. We never know what is going to happen in the next week, day or even the next few hours. While we might not be entirely sure how we will be spending our Thanksgiving this year, there is one thing we can be sure about and that is the behavior surrounding this holiday. 

While this holiday season might not be accompanied by our unique traditions, we can still embody its spirit and be thankful for all that we have been given and that we are still able to celebrate this holiday, even if it’s from a distance.       


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