Fresh Turkey: Breaking Thanksgiving Tradition

Thanksgiving traditions are treasured. Thinking back though, I realize that it has been a very long time since I had a traditional Thanksgiving. Hearing people discuss their plans for the upcoming weekend of feasts had me feeling a bit dejected for the past few weeks. If you share this circumstance or have occasionally caught your lower lip jutting out towards self-pity in recent days, take heart. I am here to tell you that missing out on all the usual trimmings really isn’t the same thing as missing out on all the fun.

The Gumboot proclaimed winner of the ‘war of the holidays’ earns its crown for many reasons. Many of those things that make Thanksgiving so favored are conspicuously absent from what has become my atypical Thanksgiving.  If upholding tradition is an option, it is still probably the best option but, if not, there is still hope for your Thanksgiving weekend to be full of all the warmth and happiness it’s meant to bring.

Coming from a large matriarchal family, my Italian grandmother and her many daughters (my mom and aunts) have always been counted on to orchestrate incredible feats of holiday gatherings where food and family take center stage. Thanksgiving, however, has become the exception to this rule since the year my family elders decided they would rather roast themselves in the Palm Springs sun than roast turkeys to feed 40 people.

Since the first abandonment occurred, I have been launched from my cozy continuum of consumption and into an experiment of creating my own holiday rules. Each year a new occasion has been invented or discovered. One year was an Oregon art gallery where many new friends were eagerly introduced to the Canadian version of a holiday they also love. Another year was a potluck pool party with all the fixins. Another was simply a long table in a tiny apartment packed with close friends. Whether they were spent with old friends or new, these deviations from the thanksgiving norm that I grew up with have been filled with good company, delicious food, and the thrill of breaking free from the norm and creating something new.

The emptiness left by a tradition lost can seem much more difficult to fill than that of a hungry belly. But losing one isn’t always an occasion to grieve. It can also be an opportunity to create new experiences that will stand out from the repetition of other holidays and to create something truly memorable and soul filling. The hunt is on for this year’s adventure. I’m still not sure what it will be, but I am certain that I will find a sense of community, if not a sense of tradition, wherever I wind up.