Thanksgiving means a lot of things for a lot of different people. Despite its deeply problematic origins, for some it can be a time when family (be they chosen or biological) come together and puts aside the heartache and feuds to share a meal.
Traditions look different for everyone. For some, Thanksgiving can be turkey, football and a mug of spiked cider. For others, it’s a pizza and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles or the Mariah Carey Christmas Special on television.
We asked Wear Your Voice readers what some of their Thanksgiving traditions are. Here’s what they said:
“I’m not a fan of Thanksgiving. Part of it is because with my food allergies, there typically isn’t anything I can eat. Instead of doing the traditional American meal, my husband and I stay home, stay in our sweats all day, cook a huge Puerto Rican meal (his heritage) and open our house up to any friends with nowhere to go or have friends stop by after they’ve spent the day at other places.” D.F., Indianapolis, Indiana.
“I usually attend some kind of ‘orphan’ Friendsgiving. If we can, I’ll make some frybread and soup with some veggies. I can always get down with pie, too. Mainly, I use the holiday to tell my friends how much I love them and to reconnect with my indigenous roots in the ways I can. Now that my daughter is old enough to learn about “holidays,” I want to teach her how to decolonize the messed up things we all think are normal in the states. I want to keep the day as a way to honor our ancestors, honor our family and nurture deeper bonds with each other and our chosen family/friends.” C.L., Oakland, California.
“I come from a non-religious, non-traditional, non-fancy Florida family. We eat all the normal fixin’s and then a few special dishes. My mom hasn’t had a real stove in years and makes everything out on the grill. The family sits around the house and the porches. There’s always a few stragglers to dinner (most of the time, my friends) and normally a football game on. In recent years, I’ve spent a lot more time talking to my Dad on the back porch. He’ll smoke cigs & drink coffee while we discuss the possibilities that we have alien DNA. I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving in a while. My guy and I just have tacos and watch Rambo.” C.B., Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“I grew up on the Rez. We didn’t do Thanksgiving. My family also doesn’t like lesbians and neither does hers, so now that my wife and I are married, we do our own thing with friends and queer chosen family. We use it as a day to eat a meal together and party. Obviously, I have mixed feelings about it, but I’m thankful for the people that I love.” J.D., Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“I usually end up spending holidays by myself, and there was a good like three year stint where it was a consistent thing. I was raised Jehovah’s Witness though, so it wasn’t that big of a deal, but I always found a lot of solace in the fact that most major networks air a special of some sort featuring an iconic pop diva — for the last few years it’s seemed Gaga and Beyonce were just trading off. They help me to kind of get lost in the hype of the holiday season, despite the fact I don’t necessarily feel the most comfortable around my family during the holidays. I can always count on pop divas come holiday time!” M.P., Los Angeles, California.
“My family has a pirate Thanksgiving. We found that we all were opposed to the meaning behind Thanksgiving. We dress up like pirates and cook together. We decorate the dining room and light candles. Then we eat by candlelight and listen to pirate-themed music. It’s been a really fun tradition that includes the joys of bringing people together and sharing a meal.” L.V., Eugene, Oregon.
“My brother and father passed away several years ago, just a couple months from each other, and shortly after that my mother retired and left the States entirely! So now my tradition is to have dinner at one of the fanciest restaurants in town on Thanksgiving, dress to the nines and drink martinis.” Y.D.L., New Orleans, Louisiana.
“Growing up, and up until my mom passed, we all had to write a letter about everything in our life we were thankful for. During dinner we went around the table and read the letters. I think when my daughter gets older I will revive that one!” A.G., Redondo Beach, California.
“I’ve only been doing Thanksgiving for five years since getting to the States. I often get invited to different ones, which is cool because it helps me learn more about how others celebrate it. I tend to bring food that Venezuela has only during the holiday season, so that I can still feel it makes a bit of sense to me, as well.” M.G., Berkeley, California.
“When I was in Florida, we always had a plate of fresh, sliced tomatoes with salt and pepper with the other appetizers, and we would eat them with toothpicks. I can’t get worthwhile tomatoes this time of year up north. I always miss that.” J.G., Jersey City, New Jersey.
“We do our Thanksgiving like a potluck now that my grandma’s gone. She used to do everything before. I’m in charge of the greens and potato salad now. I don’t trust nobody else to do it right.” M.B., Baltimore, Maryland.
“My family and I don’t get along. My mother is a Jewish liberal that married a Southern Baptist conservative and has hated him almost ever since. The only things I can count on during the holidays are turkey, mashed potatoes, arguing and being guilted by my mom for not coming home more often and shamed by my dad for being gay. I try to avoid going home during the holidays, but I’m overdue for going back. Fuck my life, right?” J.G., Boston, Massachusetts.
“I take Thanksgiving very seriously. If there’s one excuse to bring friends and family from the barstools or from across the country to sit around grassy ground floors or granite countertops and celebrate the genuine sincerity of gratitude for one another, I’ll take it! Eating, drinking, being silly, lending a helping hand in the kitchen, recounting ‘that time when…,’ or just doing shots of the bottle that someone brought. Happy Thanksgiving!” S.M., St. Petersburg, Florida.