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Not Your Traditional Thanksgiving

By Sydney Meyer
On November 17, 2017

Photo by: Ashley Alonzo

Mashed potatoes and stuffing are served under rivers of buttery-brown gravy. Their smooth, round flavors provide contrast to the sharp tang of the cranberry sauce, which harmonizes with the subtle thyme notes created by the turkey’s 8-hour slow-roasted and crispy skin. The scent of buttery rolls fills the air, and you can smell your grandma’s sweet-potato pie baking at 375ºF, ready to be pulled out just as soon as the feast has commenced. You can barely hear the football game on the television over the chatter of your relatives, who are gossiping, discussing the deals soon to be made on Black Friday. It is Thanksgiving, and we all know the scene.

Or do we?

“I do not consider my Thanksgiving a traditional one,” says Graham Dixon, a junior at Ottawa University. “Simply because we had odd family traditions that seem less traditional.”

Thanksgiving is a custom, modified from its original version and formatted to fit our culture. Starting as an autumn harvest feast in 1621, Thanksgiving wasn’t declared a holiday until 1863 and wasn’t even established as the fourth Thursday in November until 1941. Originally rooted in religious beliefs, Thanksgiving has become more about feasting, family and football as years have passed.

Though the standardized picture of Thanksgiving may include a roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, each family has their own Thanksgiving rituals that are necessary for the holiday to really “feel” like Thanksgiving.

These differences in Thanksgiving structure are constituted through certain dishes that must be prepared, specific behaviors that must be completed or people who must be present. The holiday presents a myriad of different traditions, so, though we may speak of the “Thanksgiving tradition” as if it were one solid thing, there really is no one Thanksgiving tradition.

Dixon’s tradition includes a family roping competition using cattle dummies. His family does rodeos and, as he puts it, he’s from the “middle of nowhere,” so it only seems natural to include roping in their Thanksgiving.

“My family has an eating competition to see who will get the comfy chair,” says Brad Nolen, a junior from Houston, Texas.

Junior Mykenna Hadl’s tradition consists of the men sitting in the living room watching football while the women sit around and talk.

Traditions are created within the culture of each family and can be impacted by size, environment and history within each family tradition. Some family traditions are rooted in religious belief, some are reflective of the importance of football, and still others are done on a whim, no rituals necessary.

Gatlin Watson, a junior at Ottawa University, says his tradition consists solely of pumpkin pie, “one of the best things on the planet.”

Willie Estrada says his family tradition is to give a prayer of thanksgiving for everyone and everything, including God.

“Then we serve and eat,” he says. “We have to get nice warm pie -- any kind of pie. Lastly, we crack good jokes.”

Because Thanksgiving is typically tied with a certain kind of food, many traditions include one certain recipe, made only on that one special day.

Dixon’s family celebrates Thanksgiving with homemade noodles -- the only day they are made.

Hadl’s favorite Thanksgiving dish is her aunt’s cheeseball -- she loves them so much, her aunt always makes her one for herself.

Ashton Findley, a sophomore from Kansas City, Kansas, has a tradition involving his grandmother’s special green beans. They include bacon, baby potatoes and sugar.

Nicole Pierick, a sophomore from Minnesota, expresses something she’s thankful for before the feast. Her favorite Thanksgiving dish is orange Jell-O salad.

Hannah Holden, a sophomore from California, says her family always includes sweet potato surprise in the menu. This dish is made with sweet potatoes, coconut and brown sugar on top.

Thanksgiving traditions vary depending on family and place, culture and history. Though each person may experience very different foods and traditions, one thing remains constant: a full-to-bursting kind of satisfaction.


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