It’s been said many times over: Thanksgiving will be different this year.
A long year indeed, and it looks like it’ll be here a while. The pandemic tore the very fabric of our interactions as human beings. It has caused heartaches and devastated the lives of millions around the world.
It made us recognize what really matters in life and what we’ve taken for granted.
The simplest things: A handshake. A hug. A kiss.
Time with our dearest friends and moments with our family.
What we have are memories that are far too precious to forget.
This Thanksgiving will be different, but it need not be dark.
We can always reflect back to the laughter, the tears, the football games, the cooking and timeless family traditions we hold dear and near to our hearts.
WYDaily staff shared their special moments from Thanksgiving holidays over the years and how it will be different this year.
Thanksgiving at my house can be far from relaxing.
In fact, it’s quite chaotic. We run the town’s annual Turkey Trot, a 5-mile loop on a chilly, Thanksgiving morning, passing landmarks and spectators before our family meets us at the finish line. Then we gorge ourselves on bagels and Bloody Mary at my uncle’s and aunt’s place. Then we leave and get ready for dinner at my parents’ house.
At home, my mother tends to a large, overstuffed bird ––the biggest she can buy––while my father drinks a beer and watches March of the Wooden Soldiers. And before you know it, at least 40 guests arrive: Family, friends, neighbors and the occasional stranger.
Most of them hang out in the kitchen where they eat hors d’oeuvres, catch up and enjoy a drink. The kids head down to the basement where they scream and run round, while my parents act as hosts: Dad playing bartender and mom cooking around people gathered in her workspace.
Mom sets up buffet trays of food with everyone’s favorite sides from parsnips and ambrosia to green bean casserole and mashed potatoes.
Even homemade butternut squash soup, so rich and warm you can only have one mug. We gather in the kitchen where she says a prayer, thanking God for the feast and praying for our loved ones who have died.
We then eat until we’re stuffed and gorge ourselves on dessert, celebrating birthdays with homemade cakes and store-bought pies. We clean the kitchen and while people start to leave, my mother sends everyone home with leftovers –– no one can say no. We end the night with Christmas movies snuggled up on the couch.
My dad wakes up early the next day to hang the Christmas lights around the house, while my mom unwinds, taking naps between visitors and watching Christmas movies until she falls asleep.
While Thanksgiving is just one day for most, for our family it’s really three: The day of the meal and the two days eating leftovers, visiting friends and watching movies on the couch.
My mom is still hosting Thanksgiving this year, but it’s going to be rather small. Most family members opted out and are celebrating at home. I won’t be traveling up this year, but we promised to Zoom instead.
It’s hard and I hate it but I know it’s for the best.
Whenever I think of Thanksgiving, I’m always reminded of the many years my family would drive up to spend the holiday with my family in Baltimore. They’re the kind of family members who actually began as our next door neighbors, but as years progressed, they quickly became family to us.
My uncle usually has not one, but two turkeys frying in peanut oil. Even though it’s cold outside, there’s the circle of us standing around the fryers with a drink in one hand, eyes squinting against the chilly wind. I’m told forming a close-knit circle around an open flame and grease is necessary in the turkey cooking process.
Inside, my aunt and mom tag-team the sides. How they don’t smash into each other in such a small space is beyond me. Watching them cook is like watching synchronized swimming. My aunt will make the mashed potatoes while my mom makes her sweet potato dish (my personal favorite) and a green bean casserole. Usually, there’s a turkey breast in the oven, because my aunt’s mom, who I happily call Nana, doesn’t like deep-fried turkey.
When it’s time to eat, everyone is packed around the dinner table. Not only are my immediate family there, but also people I’m less familiar with. Maybe it’s a neighbor my aunt invited, or a friend or coworker of my uncle, but it’s someone they want to have at the table with them.
I think this is also a perfect example of what “family” can mean — it doesn’t always mean blood relatives. Family can be whoever you’d call in a crisis or have fun around. Maybe they’re a childhood friend, or a neighbor, or a colleague.
This year, I’m not getting the Baltimore Thanksgiving, but I’m thankful to know the people I now consider family, friends who quickly became relatives, and for having the seats at my table filled with people I love.
Growing up in a house with a big extended family, I went to lunch cooked by my dad’s side of the family and I spent dinner with my mom’s side of the family.
With my dad’s family we had two traditions. The first tradition was when we were eating: We would all go around and say one thing we were thankful for to the rest of the family.
I would think hard for the week leading up to Thanksgiving what I was gonna be thankful for. It was fun to come up with something every year and it helped me learn to be grateful for things everyday, not just on the holidays.
We had a wishbone tradition before desert — we would take turns breaking the wishbone of the turkey, and whoever broke off the bigger piece, their wish was supposed to come true.
I never got the biggest piece, so I cannot confirm or deny that it makes wishes come true.