Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. You don’t get any nasty religious vs. secular fights; you don’t have to worry that your friend is going to show up with a gift wrapped turkey for you and you didn’t even buy her a sweet potato; the menu is basically set. It just doesn’t have the baggage and drama of other holidays (I’m talkin’ to YOU Christmas!). The only real requirement is that you count your blessings which is a rather enjoyable exercise. In fact, for Primary one year I invented “Gratitgories” (similar to Scategories) which in addition to being a fun way of talking about blessings is also competitive and placates those relatives that NEED to win, even in giving thanks. Here’s what you do: down the left side of a piece of paper write either THANKS or GRATITUDE and then have everyone write a word that starts wtih each letter, ie “trees” after T. You get one point for each unique answer. So if Aunt Sue also put down “trees,” no one gets a point. Try that at your table.

Here are my Gratigory answers: T-“The Good Wife,” that makes all the drama in my life disappear for an hour each week; H-Harry Potter, that provides endless examples for my kids of how to navigate life; A-Angela, my dear sister who is always happy to listen to my ramblings; N-nutella, the chocolatey hazelnutty spread that my kids adore that has a long shelf-life so even if the deli meat has gone bad, they can still make a sandwich; K-kitty, my furry pet that adores me like no one else (I secretly call him  Meowster Darcy); S-the Savior who truly is my Friend and helps me have a grateful heart even when my life is a mess.

And here are a few of my favorite Thanksgiving memories:

-As a kid, all the family would congregate at 333 Dawson in Glendora, California for a huge feast at Grandpa Oscar’s. Often the kids’ table is the sucky place to be. But in this case it was the ONLY place to be. We were set up in the 3 season porch and left to our own devices. Every finger was covered in black olives and mayhem and knock knock jokes and armpit farts ruled the day. Oscar could magically cook a 30lb turkey in 3 hours, there was jello without nuts, at least 5 flavors of pie. I could count on endless games with Onry & Robinhood.

-Our first year in Phoenix, my husband’s grandparents Jean & Larry came from Denver. I awoke on Thanksgiving morning to find half the contents of my fridge on the counter and when I opened the fridge, EVERY BOWL I owned was in there, filled to the brim with jello. Strawberry jello with walnuts and cranberries and shredded carrots and cans of fruit cocktail. It was my worst nightmare but I could not stop laughing. This has happened to me every holiday we do with Grandma Jean. She is a jello junkie.

-The year we were in China was a wonderful feast. There was no turkey readily available (turkey in Chinese is “fire chicken” btw) so one of our students whose parents had a meat business told us they could locate a turkey. They showed up with gizzards and maybe a wing. Luckily we had also roasted chickens. My family always had lemon meringue but there’s no lemons in Northern China. So we made an orange meringue pie. Dave and I were so sore after making that pie. We had to whip the duck egg whites by hand for AGES to get it stiff as we were without an electric mixer. Our British friends hosted the event and had a huge banner up that read: “Merrie Thanksgiving all Ye Colonists!”


gerbilthxA few years back my husband discovered that squirrel were tasty and plentiful and added that as a side dish. I will not show the pictures I have because they make me queasy. Instead I’ll share a picture from the year we dressed our gerbils up in Thanksgiving attire. No rodents were eaten.




So go be thankful and overeat and shop or nap or whatever makes you happy. As long as your heart is grateful you can get away with just about anything.

What are you grateful for this year?

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7 Responses

  1. QuickThought says:

    Not to completely derail the intended conversation, which is a good one (gratitude is always a good thing), but I just wanted to point out that there is a fair amount of White privilege inherent in the statement that Thanksgiving “just doesn’t have the baggage and drama of other holidays.”

  2. Tay says:

    Love the Thanksgiving sign your British friends made. That is so awesome. And the jello! Rofl!! That is so epic!

    I love Thanksgiving, I love that I don’t have to work on Thanksgiving anymore, I love enjoying my family, I love baking too many pies so that I have to eat pie for every meal the rest of the weekend. I can’t help but feel so thankful as we gather who we can every year and just be together. Family can be a beautiful thing.

  3. spunky says:

    This is lovely, TopHat, thank you!

    I agree that Thanksgiving doesn’t have the baggage of other holidays, but every holiday does have its own baggage– some of it is encased in Jello 🙂

    Growing up in an Italian neighbourhood in New York, most of my Italian and Sicilian friends had Baked Ziti (sans turkey) for Thanksgiving. When I was single and broke and lonely in California as a young adult, I opted to serve Thanksgiving at an NAACP supported Thanksgiving lunch rather than spend the day feeling sorry for myself. This is when and how Thanksgiving became my favourite holiday. I met some really wonderful people there from all different backgrounds and I miss those days as my Thanksgiving routine since leaving San Diego well over a decade ago.

    Living outside of the US has made me appreciate Thanksgiving in a new way, and though it isn’t an Australian thing, I still celebrate it in my home, even when we have not been able to afford a Turkey or cherry pie or so many more of my traditional favourites. (Its also made me a Harvest Festival junkie– Hora Agadati anyone?)

  4. Suzette says:

    I’m grateful for you! And I love this post.

  5. EmilyCC says:

    We totally played Gratigories on Thanksgiving! Thanks for the excellent suggestion.

    I’m grateful for a spouse who loves the logistics and cooking of Thanksgiving. It’s important to him to find the perfect turkey recipe (he did a dry brine this year–pretty awesome) and makes so many delicious things.

    I’m happy to be the spouse who gets sent to the grocery store (3 times on Wednesday) and the one who takes the kids to the park Thanksgiving morning.

  6. Caroline says:

    I love these Thanksgiving ideas and memories, Heather!

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