New Thanksgiving Traditions

Snoopy Balloon at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. And I’m including the Jewish ones in that list. I absolutely love everything about Thanksgiving. Growing up, my parents would let us sleep in and then my Mom would make us a pancake breakfast. Then, we would get dressed and go watch the parade in their bedroom. I got all excited when Santa showed up, because it signaled the end of the parade and the official start of the holiday season. I know I don’t celebrate Christmas, but there is just something so climactic about Santa showing up during the parade. After the parade, it was usually time to pile into the van and head to the Lower East Side for Thanksgiving dinner at my Aunt Amy’s house. When we were really younger, the meal wasn’t as important. We would play with my cousins and then all of us would watch the Godzilla, King Kong and The Blob marathons on TV while the adults languished over dinner and dessert. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I was also very happy to leave the TV for a piece of my Aunt’s apple pie. It is delicious.

As I got older, and during the single years, Thanksgiving wasn’t as exciting for me. It was pretty difficult to be at the dinner table, surrounded by my married siblings and cousins, and all of their children. That, and there was no longer any Godzilla, King Kong and The Blob TV marathons. We still had the parade, but I was usually sleeping it off on Thanksgiving mornings. The beauty of being an adult on Thanksgiving is hitting the bars with friends on Wednesday night.

But when I got married, I was so happy about bringing the Thanksgiving tradition to my new family. I didn’t marry an American, and while DH is very supportive of my culture, he doesn’t share the same connection to the holiday. The first two years of marriage, I went all out and made these big Thanksgiving feasts. The first year I invited my husbands entire extended family, and we even had some non-relatives crash the party. I slaved over the meal for a week and made 2 turkeys. The food was great, but something was missing. I decided the second year to scale down the invitations and just have his immediate family and our friends Jen and Zvi, who were in Israel visiting. Baby J. was almost a year old at the time and we were so excited about her first Thanksgiving. Once again, I cooked like a fiend, made two turkeys, and set a gorgeous table. DH’s family seemed to enjoy the experience, but again, I felt like something was missing.

Obviously what’s missing is my family. I miss my Aunt Amy’s turkey and apple pie, watching my cousin’s Larry and Neil dive into the dessert with gusto (this is after a huge meal), holding my nieces and nephews, making sure my Zayde A”H cup is full, fighting with at least one of my siblings and/or parent, gossiping with my Grandmother, the annual joint birthday cake for both of my parents,  and then reminiscing about days of yore and how much we loved watching Godzilla, King Kong and The Blob. That, and how funny it was the year we accidentally threw my sister’s retainer in the trash and how my Dad had to go through 3 apartment buildings worth of dumpsters FULL of Thanksgiving trash before he found it (he smelled great when he got back to the apartment with the retainer, BTW). Or the year New York City got socked with a heavy snow storm and we were holed up in our house, sans turkey, but with plenty of love, good cheer, snowball fights, and hot cocoa.

Not wanting to make an elaborate Thanksgiving meal for just the four of us, especially since Baby S. isn’t up to eating meat yet, I decided to delay Thanksgiving dinner until the girls are older but start some new traditions already today. First, that DH and I go out to a movie after Thanksgiving dinner. Even if my feet were aching from all the cooking and the house would be a mess from all the guests and food, I plan on leaving the mess, getting a babysitter, tucking the kids into bed, and going to see a nice movie with my husband. Next year, I’ll make a much better choice of movies though. Seeing Breaking Dawn with a theater full of screaming teenagers wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

Also, I decided I really wanted Baby J. to experience the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any online outlets live streaming the parade. So, I went to YouTube and decided to show her last year’s parade. When DH got home, we gathered around the computer, and watched some guy’s video from 75th and Central Park West. It was a grainy home video but it was so effective, it made me feel like I was right there. Anyway, we watched the marching bands go by, and then Snoopy was the first balloon to make an appearance. As I excitedly told the kids about the balloons, DH realized that Baby J. was crying! She was so scared of the balloon, that she was silently crying and miserable. I quickly turned off the video, gave her a hug, and put on a TV show for her. While she was watching her show, with drying tears on her cheeks, she told me: “Mommy, I no want Thanksgiving. No more Thanksgiving, ok?”

Sigh. OK. She perked up when I ordered in pizza and ice cream though. And, while she only took three licks of her chocolate ice cream cone, I think she wasn’t so sad about Thanksgiving anymore. Another new tradition is born: pizza and ice cream cones for lunch on Thanksgiving day. But not too much, I wouldn’t want them to spoil their appetite for what’s to come.

And, while they are much too young for a touch football game in the courtyard of the Matnas next door, I’m looking forward to P”G getting a nice game together. Even if it’s just two on two, it will be a family tradition I hope they will all come to enjoy. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to teach my non-American/non-sports loving husband the rules of the game.

At the end of the day, I just hope the girls don’t grow up to be teenagers who roll their eyes and gripe to their friends about having to deal with their American Mother on Thanksgiving, when they’d rather be anywhere else but having turkey dinner with us.

Here’s hoping they’ll just invite them all over for dinner instead.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!



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One Response to New Thanksgiving Traditions

  1. I think you have to find a way to make it more meaningful over and above the meal and family get-together. Maybe make it a roots/nostalgia night with old family stories (from both sides), old movies on DVD, traditional recipes from Aunt Amy, etc…

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