Growing up, I thought Chuck-A-Rama was a perfectly normal place to eat Thanksgiving dinner.
My family painted turkeys and pilgrims on our living room window with tempera paint. We devoted an entire day to dollar theater movie marathons. We didn’t “toss around the old pig skin.” In fact, I was in middle school before I even realized that November is football season.
Point being, everyone interprets Thanksgiving differently. The parameters of this holiday are so loosely defined—often limited merely to “eat lots of food”—that it leaves plenty of room for individual adaptation.
The flexibility of this holiday is one of its most endearing aspects. In talking to a few friends, I’ve realized how different these traditions can be. For example, one family devotes an entire week to preparing elements of their dinner, making their own stock, whipping their own cream and churning their own butter, while another family eats their dinner at 7-Eleven. They inhale hot dogs, stale donuts, Gatorade, Funyuns, peach rings, Fritos, Teddy Grahams, bruised fruit and technicolored Slurpees. And they love it.
Some families go around the table and list things they’re grateful for and some families beat the sugar-coated stuffing out of dancing piñatas. Some families bake their turkey while others deep-fry it. Some families have post-dinner four square tournaments and others don feathers and buckled shoes to recreate the first Thanksgiving.
It would be difficult to go from house to house on Thanksgiving Day and see many strands of consistency—and that’s kind of the point. Thanksgiving is as unique as the families that celebrate it.
When all is said and done, far beyond tables and Tupperware stuffed with food, beyond cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, it’s a celebration of individual people, individual circumstances and individual blessings.