Posts tagged with: Thanksgiving

Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Traditions

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

A week from today here in the good ole USA we celebrate Thanksgiving. Ah yes, the holiday of gluttonous over-indulgence. But how did a day meant to give thanks for a bountiful harvest become the traditional day to over-eat?

I think I know…

Okay, maybe it’s more like a theory since I don’t have any proof, but I think the tradition of pigging out on Thanksgiving happened sorta by accident. I mean, it’s easy to picture… everybody worked hard in the fields the past six or seven months. There’s a huge spread of food and no way to save most of the left-overs… Everyone’s talking and joking and you can’t insult any of the cooks…

It could have happened!

Just like so many of the weird “traditions” in my family’s Thanksgiving celebrations. Here are a few:

The Turkey Neck

A very long time ago when Aunty was just a little girl, Grandma was in a bad mood on Thanksgiving (probably because she was fixing dinner for about 30 people and nobody was helping her). Anyway, sometime just before we all sat down to dinner, Grandpa sneaked into the kitchen and then into the dining room, and put the turkey neck in the middle of her plate. Every one thought this was quite hilarious, including Grandma (which tells you something about our family), and for at least a decade after (even after Grandpa was gone) at every Thanksgiving dinner, SOMEONE (a different person every time) would walk into the dining room and find the turkey neck in the middle of their plate.

Black Olive Fingers

When Aunty was growing up, we were very much a meat & potatoes kind of family. A bowl of pitted black olives were reserved for special occasions like Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. We kids were prone to piling a lot of them on our plates, and being fairly round, they often tended to roll off, which brought a stern reprimand from the nearest adult. To remedy this, one Thanksgiving my baby brother stuck an olive on each of his finger tips. Seeing how effective this method was, my older brother followed suit. My sister and I were far to sophisticated for such antics, and besides our fingers were too big (we were older).

No matter how many times my mother asked them not to, my brothers continued to eat their olives this way until their fingers also grew too large. But lest you think this tradition died out, my baby brother was fourteen when my son was born and by my son’s second Thanksgiving, guess what his uncle had taught him to do?

Fruit Salad Topped Turkey

I wasn’t exaggerating before when I mentioned 30 for Thanksgiving dinner. Easter and Thanksgiving were the two times every year when my aunts, uncles, and all my cousins would come over to eat. With that mob around the table, there was no such thing as seconds, at least not with anything good. If you couldn’t fit it on your place the first time it was passed around, you were usually out of luck.

One year when my older brother was a young teen (and had the voracious teen boy appetite) he had no room left on his plate when the bowl of fruit salad came his way. Fresh fruit salad happens to be (still after all these years) one of my brother’s favorite holiday dishes. He was not about to pass it on no matter how full his plate, so he piled a generous helping ON TOP of his slices of turkey. Halfway through the meal, my brother loudly proclaimed that his fruit salad topped turkey was the best he’d ever tasted. I confess I have never tried it, but to this day, my brother puts fruit salad on top of his turkey, and at least two of his daughters do too!

So there you have some of my family’s non-traditional traditions for Thanksgiving dinner.

What about you? Do you have any unique things you do at Thanksgiving dinner? If you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, what about other holiday non-traditions? Aunty would hate to think that her family if the only weird one when it comes to holiday meals.

Holiday Sharing

by Susan Sey

So I hosted Thanksgiving this year, although I don’t know if “hosted” is the right word. We didn’t have anybody over but ourselves. My family gathered in Michigan where my parents live, my husband’s family gathered in California where his brother and his family are based. But we stayed home. All by ourselves.

I’ll have been married ten years this coming summer, and it’s taken us the full ten to get the hang of this sharing the holidays business. It’s no easy thing. You want to respect each other’s family traditions while making the space to create your own traditions. Throw in kids, pets, in-laws, limited vacation time and several hundred miles and you’ve got a real quandry.

At first we simply switched sides every year. If his family got Christmas, my family got Thanksgiving. The next year we flip-flopped. But we live twelve hours from my folks, and six from his. Then we had a baby. Then we had two. When #2 was born I called a halt to holiday travel. I said, “We love you but we are not leaving this house for the holidays anymore. You are all welcome to come here, I will love having you. But I will not take this show on the road.”

I stuck to my guns on it, too, and people understood. They weren’t happy but they got it. Babies aren’t easy-going travelling companions, and they require a lot of stuff. A lot of routine. A lot of tending. All easier done where all the equipment is near at hand.

Then my husband’s parents had their 40th wedding anniversary, and all they wanted for a present was a Christmas with everybody together. So we packed up the kiddoes, got on a plane and spent the holidays in California. And it was wonderful.

The baby was a year old, on her feet and tremendously cute. Her cousins fawned over her and we had a lovely time. I thought, “Goodness, why was I so dead set on never doing this again?”

And since we’d just done one Christmas in California, it was only fair to do the next one in Michigan. So we loaded up the old station wagon and hit the road. We made it to Chicago before my oldest’s notoriously touchy stomach decided to act up. I sat backwards in the front seat holding a well-used barf bowl all the way to Detroit, and I remembered why travelling with kids can be problematic.

I thought to myself, “Next year is an At Home Year.” And thus my current philosophy was born. One year for his family–they get to pick whether they want Thanksgiving or Christmas & we show up wherever they say with smiles on our faces. The next year for my family, same deal. But the third year? The third year we stay home. Anybody who wants to join us is welcome but we are not budging.

This–as you may have guessed–is an At Home Year.

We’ve had an incredibly good time. A nice, leisurely dinner on Thanksgiving. A brisk hike along a deer-tracked foot path afterwards. Pie and tea in front of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. We laid around like slugs the day after, and the day after that we hosted a Post-Thanksgiving Left-Overs Potluck for other folks who were sans family for the holiday. We all got together, shared food and conversation, and enjoyed being home.

And part of that enjoyment is from just being here, where we live, cementing friendships with people we like. But another part of it is knowing that next year, we’ll go to our family and be with them. We’ll demonstrate our love for them by taking this travelling circus on the road, and sharing their traditions, their homes, their food. And we’ll be delighted to do it.

What about you? How do you share the holidays? Have you ever spent a holiday alone? What are your traditions? Your family’s traditions? What did you take from your childhood, and what did you leave behind? How do you balance your family’s traditions with your spouse’s/partner’s?

Laeti Congregamur

by Nancy

No, that’s not gibberish in the title. It’s how the first line of the hymn “We Gather Together,” my Thanksgiving favorite, translates into Latin. My high school Latin teacher provided translations of that hymn along with “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Ruldolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I no longer remember the rest of it, but there’s a full Latin translation of the lyrics here.

This is all a lead-in, of course, to the fact that it’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a time when many Americans “gather together” with family and friends to commemorate the things and people for which we’re grateful. Our blog community gathers daily, and I hope some of you will pop in today to join me and the gladiators and the cabana boys and maybe take the rooster home for a visit. Sometimes we’re thoughtful, sometimes we have fun, and sometimes we mix our moods. No matter what feeling rules a particular day, I’m grateful for the Lair and its denizens, actual and virtual (because, really, there’s power in imagination), and for all our buddies.

Just FYI, Sven and Demetrius are currently squabbling over who gets to carve the turkey, with Demetrius maintaining that his sword will do much better than that “dinky little knife” Sven is holding (it’s a carving knife, actually, “dinky” only in relation to a sword). I’m just keeping my head down, trying to be invisible. They’re the last two I want to referee between, and asking the rooster to help would be like throwing thermite on a fire.

When I was growing up, my mom worked at the college I later attended. Her secretarial position in the registrar’s office let her get to know a lot of students. Those who lived too far away to go home for Thanksgiving often wound up at our dining room table. While I didn’t always appreciate that at the time, I’m now thankful for the way those guests broadened my perspective on holidays and taught me to look beyond my immediate circle on such occasions.

Some of the students Mom befriended became friends of our family, too. I recently saw a couple of them at a gathering of the women in my college class. We go to the beach for a weekend every year, whoever can turn up. Even though there were comparatively few women in our class, I didn’t know most of them well. I transferred in as a sophomore and so missed the orientation that would’ve brought me into contact with them.

I’m pleased to have made, after all these years, friends among the women I missed getting to know the first time around. So I’m grateful to Sue M. and Ann “Wicked” for pushing me to go the first time and for all the women who’ve participated during the years for weekends of camaraderie and memory. And to Van for posing with me and the Silver Surfer in the photo at the bottom of the blog (with only minimal wine involved).

My high school friends have started a community on Facebook to connect those of us who used to live near each other but have since scattered. I appreciate the ability to keep in touch with old friends and our collective past even though the level of activity on Facebook sometimes makes my mind go “tilt.”

Reading comic books ignited my imagination. If a couple of guys from Cleveland, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, hadn’t invented Superman, the superhero from whom all others flowed, I wouldn’t have had that stimulus. So I give thanks for the creators of the many imaginary worlds I love and for the friends I’ve made through fandom and writing.

I’m grateful for the education that made me an insatiable history geek and for scholars and hobbyists who feed that interest. And for the dh’s willingness to carry home suitcases full of books. As we had brunch on our honeymoon in San Francisco, on the first full day of our married life, we looked down from the glass-sided restaurant atop a hotel and were jointly thrilled to discover a bookstore a few blocks over. We went there immediately afterward and added to the total weight of our luggage. We spent our first New Year’s together with him building and staining bookshelves in our living room because our joint book collection kept growing.

A few years later, as we walked through Gatwick Airport to catch our flight home, he had to stop every few feet and renew his grip on the suitcase. The woman behind him said, in a friendly voice, “What are you carrying–bricks?” He said, “No. Books.” And sort of forced a smile. If he wishes the customs agent hadn’t shared the news that books were duty free (at least then–except for dealers, I think–but that may have changed), he sweetly keeps that to himself.

And of course I’m grateful to have the dh and the boy (who once replied to a question about what he wanted to do when he grew up by thinking a moment and then saying, “I’d like to be someone who doesn’t get arrested,” a goal his father and I heartily support and for which we are thankful). The boy is taller than I am now and never loses an opportunity to remind me.

Our lives are enriched by our friends and extended families, who’re also celebrating at their homes today. And, foolish as this may sound to some of you, by our yellow lab, the latest in the string of dogs who discovered they could be bosses of us.

We’re having dinner with friends, who are contributing fabulous brownies for dessert. Since I’m utterly incapable of creating such a thing “from scratch,” I’m grateful for people who can and for the warmth this family’s presence will add to our table.

What are you doing today? Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving memory? A holiday that seemed bound for disaster but turned out well after all, or vice-versa? Have you made a friend later in life that you missed out on the first time around?

Do you love the Silver Surfer? Do you remember the name of his girlfriend, whom he never stopped missing? Do you have a friend who’d be willing to join you and the Surfer in a photo?

I have SFF samplers from DragonCon for two commenters today. To kick off the holiday season, I’m also including below the recipe for the dh’s holiday favorite. Every year, his late mother made her Aunt Lillian’s [Cringe-Proof] Fruitcake (as adapted, so it doesn’t feed a battalion, by the dh’s sister and brother-in-law).

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Aunt Lillian’s Fruit Cake (Cringe-Proof, according to Nancy’s dh)
his makes a spice cake with candied fruit and nuts in it.

Be sure to check ingredient list and adapt for any allergies. We use one large loaf pan and two small ones, filling them a couple of inches each, per batch. This cake does not rise.

Warning: Requires very large bowl to mix

Overnight, soak the following in inexpensive brandy:
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 and 1/2 cups candied fruit (often sold as fruit cake mixture)
1/4 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
1 tsp. grated orange peel

Mix the following and cream well:
1/2 cup shortening (butter)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar

2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 and 1/3 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder

Mix well, then drain the brandy-soaked fruit and add it;

Mix well, then put into greased and paper-lined pans (use either parchment paper or brown paper);
Bake for about 3 hours at 275 degrees (Fahrenheit);
Test doneness with a toothpick–cake should not be doughy;
When cool, remove from pan and wrap in brandy-soaked dish towel (optional). Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until serving, sprinkling brandy on the cake every few days if desired.


Over the River and Through the Wood …

To Grandmother’s house we go,
The horse knows the way

To carry the sleigh,
Through the white and drifted snow.

Everyone’s singing along, right? Right! We all know this song!
But seriously, who in the world goes to their grandmother’s house in a horse-drawn sleigh?

When my brothers and I were young and first heard the “Over the River” song, we wondered why the words didn’t mention the part where we drove through that long, dark tunnel under the airport. So we made up our own lyrics.
Hop on the freeway
And drive through the tunnel
To grandmother’s house we go,
Dad knows the way
In our Chevrolet,
And into the city we go.

Yes, that’s more like it!

And snow? We didn’t know anyone who drove through snow. No comprende! We grew up in Southern California, near the beach. I didn’t see snow until I was … well, much older.

My dear husband, who grew up in Buffalo, New York, still teases me about the first time I saw snow falling. It was my first trip to his hometown and looking out the airplane window, I saw all this sparkly, shiny, colorful fairy dust flying in the air. It was beautiful! I asked him what it was, and he laughed and said, “That’s snow.” (“You idiot.” No, he didn’t add that part, but believe me, it was clearly implied in his tone.) I insisted that what we were looking at couldn’t be snow. “No, it’s too sparkly. It looks like fairy dust to me,” I said.

You’ll all be happy to know that I successfully repressed the memory of his response.

So … Where are you going for the holiday? How are you getting there? Will there be snow?

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!!

A Brief Lull

by Nancy Northcott

Before we start today’s blog, please join the entire lair in wishing our friends Maria and Marisa at RNTV a very happy birthday! We’re all grateful for the wonderful promotion they give our genre. If you get a chance, pop over there and give them birthday greetings.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program . . .
Tomorrow is, in the United States, Thanksgiving Day, a time for friends and family to gather, take time out from the usual rush of life, and reflect on the good things in our lives. It’s generally a day of tranquility, of peace and reflection.
And then the madness begins! “Black Friday,” as it’s called because so many merchants depend on it to keep their ledgers in black ink for the rest of the year, follows hard on Thanksgiving’s heels. Malls and big box stores become swamped. While this day theoretically belongs to thoughts of others, to shopping for something to bring joy to the people for whom we were grateful the day before, it seems to bring out the worst in some people.
Parents start scheming–who do they know who works in retail and can get this year’s equivalent of a Cabbage Patch Kid or Tickle Me Elmo? (I confess to having spent a couple of hours driving around town in search of the Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Disk one Christmas Eve and finding one only because I happened to walk into the toy store just after someone returned it.) Special deals on limited-quantity items spur people to stand in line for hours, then stampede into the store, often with serious injuries resulting. People battle over the last Hot Gizmo in stock as if they were Joan’s gladiators. The police often have to come restore order. This is the spirit of Christmas? Or is it our American tendency to compete coming to the fore in a very destructive way? Or a little of both?
Just as an aside here, I’m a sucker for Christmas decorations. Seriously. I’d rather not have seen them since before Halloween, but after December 1, I love them. I even loved them on my recent trip to NY and felt that, considering that I was in town for just a couple of days, the big tree at Rockefeller Center really should’ve been lit so I could see it. Even if December 1 was a week away (just kidding, but I’ve only seen it once and was so hoping to see it again).

But the premature appearance of tinsel and holly and Santa seem to gear us all up for this shopping marathon-sprint- madhouse. Then Thanksgiving comes, and it’s “Oh, my gosh, the good stuff will be gone if I don’t hurry!” For some people. Not for everyone, of course. I know plenty of people who go out on Black Friday with a plan, avoid places that could lead to mass insanity and violence, and are home by lunchtime.
From there, though, it’s holiday cards, home decorations, shopping, packing, mailing–an evolving list that leads lead up to a “whew, it’s done!” about midnight on Christmas Eve. And, sometimes, to a letdown on Christmas morning, a sense that weeks of work led up to a brief frenzy of tearing paper and blinking tree lights. Sort of like the scene of the family opening gifts in the dh’s favorite Christmas movie, A Christmas Story.
Our Christmases were leisurely when the boy was little. We’d get up, peek into our stockings, and watch him play with Santa’s gifts while his dad made Swedish pancakes, a tradition in his family. Then we’d have our pancakes and open our gifts. Since our son wanted to play with each new gift, we paused frequently in the opening process to enjoy watching him do that. Now that he has “graduated” to electronics and video games, it isn’t the same, but we still try to take the day slowly, to really look at and think about the various gifts we exchange, the people who gave them, and the fact that our family has reached another Christmas.
We also have friends, Roberta and Art, who are Jewish but loved Christmas. Since they don’t feel right about decorating, they came over every year until they moved out of state to help us decorate our tree. We’d spend a leisurely afternoon putting up ornaments, visiting, and discussing the holiday. They often contributed ornaments to the cause, and Roberta made us a beautiful Christmas tree skirt that we cherish. Every year, we think of them when we hang their ornaments or drape that wonderful skirt around the tree.
Because I love Christmas decorations and the dh loves everything Christmas (and has made his own Christmas cards–now our cards–since long before I knew him), we’ve amassed a fair number of decorative items. We try to buy an ornament everywhere we go on vacation (though we have none from England, which seems strange when we think how much we love it), and people give us ornaments and decorations. A couple of years ago, though, we were both going nuts in the lead-up to the holiday. We looked at each other and said, “What are we doing? This is supposed to make our house cheerful, not transform us into frenzied lunatics.” So we put up the tree, put out the snow globes, and stuck the candletower in the middle of the table. And called it done. And you know what? We had just as much fun as we would’ve had with every piece of holiday bric-a-brac in place. Maybe we even had more fun because we didn’t hit December 25 in a state of deadline anxiety.

So what do you find most challenging about the holiday season? What’s your favorite coping technique? Do you have a favorite memory of holiday preparations?

Thanksgiving Means Pie

by Caren Crane

This is my favorite time of year. Autumn is in full swing, the leaves are off the trees, there is a chill in the air and my favorite holiday is just around the corner. No, not Christmas (though that is fast on our heels): Thanksgiving.

Many people don’t understand why or how this could be. Thanksgiving, they ask, is that really your favorite? It is! Thanksgiving is the intersection of many of my favorite things in life: family, great food, thankful hearts and PIE. Oh yes, my friends, it is the holiday of pie.

My favorite is old-fashioned pumpkin pie (secret ingredient: molasses). Not store bought, which are always pale imitations of pumpkin pie. Not sweet potato pie, which you often see in North Carolina (the largest producer of sweet potatoes in the USA). Sweet potato pie is a whole other animal. I am often in charge of baking and bringing the pumpkin pie, which is my kids’ favorite as well as mine. I have been given some serious, well-intentioned advice from my mother about how the pie should be. With all due respect, I take some of this advice and ignore other bits. The pie always gets gone so it must not be too bad.

Thanksgiving is more than pumpkin pie, though. You will recall my rave from last year about cranberry chutney, which entered the family lexicon of ‘traditional Thanksgiving foods’ about ten years ago. I make that each year and it is highly anticipated. I have also experimented with a number of cheesecakes, which are always well-received. But the foods I look forward to most are the ones other family members make.

My mother’s cornbread dressing (heavy on the sage), angel biscuits, cinnamon apples, green bean casserole and orange product (ask the kids, it’s a cream cheese/Jell-o thing). My older sister’s turkey (brined in salt water and roasted herbs for days before baking) and marinated shrimp. My younger sister’s roasted root vegetables, scalloped potatoes and corn casserole. My brother’s barbecue (he smokes it himself and makes his own sauce). I was trying to think of my oldest sister’s signature dish, but she’s really more a follower of the nuts, cheese and wine school (always the best and most sinful of everything). My aunt and cousin usually turn up with their own gourmet additions just to round out the best meal of the year.

Before and after dinner are congenial times of conversation, games and more laughter than some folks experience in a year. Okay, sometimes the games get a little cut throat (especially Scrabble), but we don’t talk about that. *ahem* The worst part is when it’s over and we have to finally admit defeat and toddle off to bed. This year, Thanksgiving is late. It heightens the anticipation and gives me more time to get the ingredients bought and food prepped.

I am taking my last remaining day of vacation the Friday after the holiday, because Saturday is my beloved mother’s birthday. I cannot imagine a more wonderful end to a marvelous holiday weekend than celebrating my mother’s birth and life. If I have a spare minute, I will also get to rip into my TBR pile and Aunt Cindy’s fabulous The Wild Sight. It may end up tainted with pie stains, Aunty!

So, does anyone else adore Thanksgiving as much as I do? What is your favorite Thanksgiving food? Any happy holiday food memories you would like to share?

A Thankful Day

by Nancy Northcott

The clock has rolled past midnight, so this is officially Thanksgiving Day in the United States. I’ll celebrate with family and friends and be grateful for both. As we engage in our frantic last-minute cleanup for guests, we may take a few minutes to watch a bit of the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.

I have a weakness for parades despite having marched in one every Thanksgiving when I was in high school (I played the clarinet). I love the floats and the balloons and, indeed, the marching bands. I didn’t think about it, all those years ago, but I was fortunate to have parents who could and would buy an instrument and drive to practices and games and, when necessary, parades. I had a fantastic band director, who instilled in many of us an appreciation for a wide range of music, and I had friends in the band who made outings fun. I had the physical health to play a wind instrument and to march in parades and at football bames. All these years later, I’m still thankful for that those things and those people were part of my life.

I hope each of us has cause to be grateful for something today and that some of you will share.

I feel fortunate that my circle of friends has widened. I have the banditas now, and they’re a fantastic bunch! I have women friends who convinced me to join RWA and several of its chapters. Elizabeth, who extolled RWA’s virtues, had the right bait. “If you joined RWA, you could learn a lot,” she said. Over and over, she said it, until I believed her and wrote the check. I feel as if all of our guest readers and commenters are part of that circle, and I’m grateful for all of you.

Two and a half years ago, some women in my college class decided we should all get together, as many of us as we could gather, at the beach for a weekend. I didn’t know most of them, having transferred in as a sophomore and so missed freshman orientation. Another friend assured me no particular groups were organizing the gathering and that I would have fun. I assured her that I’d blame her if I didn’t, so it seems only fair that Sue get the credit for my having a wonderful time getting to know these multifaceted, smart women I barely knew before. We just had our third such gathering, and the streak of energizing weekends remains unbroken. I’m already looking forward to next year.

During my extended years of school, I had some wonderful teachers who loved their subjects and conveyed that love to their students. They shaped some of my most enduring interests.

My family remains supportive of my writing ambitions, an invaluable gift for those of us AYU, and we’re all healthy. So that’s my “serious” list.

On the lighter side, I’m grateful for chocolate, music, super-hero comic books, genre fiction, dedicated historians who write comprehensible, as opposed to convoluted and confusing, sentences they build into interesting books, and whimsical moments with spontaneous laughter. Oh, yeah–and parades.

So what do you like about this particular holiday? For those of us in America, what spurs you to give thanks today? For those of us abroad, what would lead you feel thankful?

To help with holiday shopping, or maybe just to offer a bit of indulgence during the shopping rush, I’m giving one commenter a $15.00 Borders gift certificate.

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