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Thanksgiving Traditions

As the weather gets colder, the sun sets earlier, and the semester draws to a close, many people begin to look forward to winter break and the holidays that occur during it. There’s no question that I’m also starting to look forward to Christmas, but this year I realized that Thanksgiving is also special for my family and I. 

For most people, Thanksgiving is a mandatory meeting with family members you never see and probably don’t like, maybe some football, and lots of food. For me, Thanksgiving has always been a more intimate affair filled with traditions. As I go home for Thanksgiving after my second year being away at school, I have reflected on previous Thanksgivings and realized that my family does a lot of small things on this holiday that I find really meaningful and sweet to revisit year after year.

A new tradition since starting college that I hope will continue is eating Chinese food for dinner the night before Thanksgiving. When I came home last year, my only meal request was Chinese food since I never eat it while I’m at school. My whole family loves Chinese food, and my parents realized that not cooking the night before a day full of cooking made a lot of sense, so we ordered out and tucked in. We also got to eat the leftovers as a light lunch (we eat Thanksgiving dinner at actual dinner time), which also saved time and stress. There’s nothing better than good food and smooth sailing!

When I was younger, our Thanksgivings were much larger and a good amount of people from both sides of my family attended. However, in the last six-ish years, our numbers have decreased. For a few years, our Thanksgiving guests comprised solely of my mom, dad, sister, and myself. More recently, my grandmother and aunt on my mom’s side have come over to our house for dinner as well. I really like these smaller gatherings, as there is much less stress involved and it feels more like a slightly spruced-up visit as opposed to a hectic celebration. Regardless of how many people attend, Thanksgiving is usually held at my house, which I love. My sister and I have a tradition of going outside to meet our family members at every celebration or gathering, and Thanksgiving is no exception. I loved welcoming people into our home, to watch them experience the sights and smells for the first time that my family has grown accustomed to throughout the day.

In the hours leading up to dinner, my sister and I carry out many of our own traditions. Ever since I was old enough to hold a knife and her a peeler, I have been in charge of making the cole slaw and she in charge of peeling and chopping carrots. One odd year we didn’t host Thanksgiving, so my family was only responsible for bringing desserts. My sister and I had no idea what to do with ourselves all morning! Ever since then, my mom has made sure we will still have our jobs to do and doesn’t let anyone else bring cole slaw or cooked carrots to our Thanksgivings. My sister and I also try our best to make placeholders for each guest. Every year, we try to find a creative and new way to make the nametags. One year, my mom found a craft that turned plastic spoons in little pilgrims! In addition, I always make origami shapes out of everyone’s napkins in addition to some larger decorative origami pieces.

While we are cooking, crafting, and sitting on the couch together after finishing our tasks, my sister and I watch the iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We moan about how long the dances and musical performances take, complain when our favorite floats are barely televised, and shout to each other when our favorite bands start singing. After the parade ends, my sister and dad fight it out over whether to watch football or the dog show (my sister is more of a football fan these days, so it’s not that big of a fight anymore!). 

Right before everyone arrives (or before we’re ready to eat on the year that it’s just the four of us), we set the table with the nice silverware and fancy glasses, put on our favorite fall-inspired outfits, and take a family photo at the table. We make sure to have plenty of sparkling juice and eggnog on hand for drinks with dinner. After eating, laughing, and catching up, we settle down on the couch together to watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with full stomachs. With the exception of putting the food away, most of the cleaning will be saved for the following morning. 

Even though Thanksgiving can be a lot of work and stressful at times, the older I get, the more I realize that I cherish the holiday and the traditions that come with it. I’m looking forward to going home for Thanksgiving this year to carry out these old traditions and maybe even create some new ones. 


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Rachel Paradis

Mt Holyoke '22

I am a senior at Mount Holyoke majoring in mathematics and minoring in psychology. I enjoy listening to music and crocheting, as well as Halloween and antique/thrift shops.
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