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By Shelley Murphy
When I think about Thanksgiving, I think about tradition.
Throughout the years, from my earliest memories of gathering around my grandparents’ table to decorating our table awaiting my boys’ return home, our traditions keep us connected, providing consistency and comfort.
I admit, our traditions were simple to preserve when my kids were young. Today, solving a Rubik’s Cube is easier than holiday planning.
As I think about how our Thanksgiving table has transformed through the years, I’m grateful we’ve continued our treasured family traditions.
But not everyone shares my time-honored viewpoint. Recently, a television morning show suggested shaking things up and adding new traditions to the day.
They pitched 32 surprising ideas, and below are several of their silliest suggestions:
- Make it a pajama party. What? A belt is a necessary barometer—it’s a day of feasting, not fasting.
- Serve brunch instead of dinner. Turkey Benedict? No. Just no.
- Play Thanksgiving trivia. Sounds like a homework assignment.
- Have a book swap. Today’s polarizing political books are a sure way to shake things up.
- Host an annual scavenger hunt. Great idea; the day isn’t hectic enough.
Back to reality, according to the internet (so it must be true), a consensus of the top 10 traditions most Americans celebrate include:
The Thanksgiving Feast
Planning a Thanksgiving dinner is more work than herding cats. The lists are long, the lines are long, and the nights are long leading up to the big day. But it’s worth the work to prepare everyone’s favorite foods. I still cave to my husband’s request and assemble his revolting canned green bean casserole.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
The marketing folks at Macy’s came up with this merry idea to start the holiday shopping season. We skip watching the comical gigantic helium inflated character balloons battle winds to stay aloft.
As a kid, I remember arguing over who got to break the wishbone. I fought to get the bigger half, thus granting my wish. I sidestepped sharing this tradition with my kids—referee isn’t another job title I want on Thanksgiving.
Some folks say the tryptophan in turkey is cause for a peaceful snooze. Our family hasn’t succumbed to this tradition, but I see its value. Thanksgiving is a long day, and a nap is a welcome respite.
This is one of my favorite traditions. During dessert, we take turns sharing what we’re grateful for and our hopes for the future.
Our family doesn’t play football—we’re too small in number to field a team. Instead, we prefer to watch (and wager) on the day’s games. For as long as I can remember, our family has huddled together to watch the pigskin competitions.
I missed this phenomenon, but my boys look forward to hosting and/or attending “Friendsgiving” each November. Before the day spent with family, friends reconnect and gather to celebrate friendship with food, fun, and often a beverage or two.
For more than a decade, I participated in this tradition. Running in the Dana Point Harbor Turkey Trot is an invigorating start to the day. Alas, my ritual was sidelined by knee surgeries, and I miss it to this day.
I am not a fan of standing on my feet most of the day on Thursday and rising before dawn on Friday to stand in long lines. But I applaud all the shoppers willing to sacrifice sleep for sales.
Volunteer Food Drives/Food Kitchens
Giving thanks is the heart of the season. We’ve been fortunate to participate in many seasonal community-based volunteer programs and food drives providing warm meals on Thanksgiving.
Next Thursday celebrates a day of gratitude filled with food, family, and friends.
I’m counting the days until I’ll savor my most treasured tradition—gathering at one table with the people I love most.
For more than 20 years, Shelley Murphy and her husband have lived in San Clemente, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to Picket Fence Media since 2006.