It is a holiday that is all about tradition. We gather with family and friends around a Thanksgiving meal with the sole purpose of being together and taking stock of all for which we are grateful.
For many, there will be home-cooked turkey with all the trimmings. Others opt for a vegetarian, ethnic-inspired or fully-catered feast-even a trip to thier favorite restaurant. Some watch the Macy's Day parade in its entirety, play a rigorous game of touch football or challenge each other at Scrabble.
The yearly holiday ritual becomes family memory and lore, where guests take comfort (most of the time) in its predictability.
Christine Archina said it would not be Thanksgiving without "cranberry meatballs." She has eaten them on the holiday for as long as she can remember. "They are a great appetizer or side dish," Archina says. "We make them every year." (she shares her recipe below).
Thanksgiving starts on Wednesday night for Laurie Lewis and her family. Their tradition is to hold "Big Sandwich Night" on the evening before the busy day of cooking. A six-foot sub is ordered in and the extended family joins together to begin holiday festivities.
And for the Levinger-Louie family their ritual is family gift-giving on Thanksgiving Day. "We come from different religions and do not celebrate Christmas," says Lisa Levinger. "So this is a great opportunity to exchange gifts—the kids receive small presents and the grown-ups often give charitable donations in the receiver's name. We will do a huge coat exchange this year too."
Warm and lovely as the big day can be, it can also cause some uneasy feelings.
"Holiday times are notoriously stressful-they are fueled by expectations, apprehension and even feelings of longing for a sense of togetherness," says Jane Kuniholm, a Mount Kisco-based psychotherapist. She says that old family dynamics often get played out at these yearly gatherings.
Her advice is to think ahead of time about what things you can do to diffuse any tensions. "Maybe invite a new friend or family to the table to lighten things up," she suggests. "Keep an open mind and heart without elevating expectations."
She added that something as simple as putting on great music for all to enjoy together can be wonderful. "Why not put on the Beatles and dance together?"
Whatever your tradition may be, best wishes for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving Day.
Please share your favorite Thanksgiving Day traditions in the comments below.
Archina Family's Cranberry Meatballs
½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
¼ cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 ½ lbs. lean ground beef
1 16-oz. can whole berry cranberry sauce
¾ cup ketchup
½ cup beef broth
3 tbsp. brown sugar
3 tbsp. finely chopped onion
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
In a bowl, combine eggs, soup mix, bread crumbs, cranberries and parsley. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Shape into 1-inch balls. Yields app. 3 dozen. Fry in pan until brown.
In saucepan, sauté onion, and combine sauce ingredients, stirring until thick. Serve meatballs and sauce together.
Editor's note: This story was first published on Thanksgiving 2010.