Thanksgiving Family Traditions

pexels-photo-917595.jpegWith Thanksgiving just around the corner, it seemed like an appropriate time to share some thoughts about this special holiday.  Let’s take a look at some family traditions, which seem to not only vary by family, but by region as well.

Our family Thanksgivings in South Dakota consisted of your basic meal, or at least what we always considered a basic meal. There was turkey, sometimes ham too, Stove Top stuffing (in a separate dish, not inside the turkey), mashed potatoes and gravy, creamstyle corn casserole, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top (or pecans and brown sugar at Grandma’s house), Grandpa’s homemade lefse (a Norwegian tradition), apple cider with red hots, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and banana cream pie (for me.)

The first Thanksgiving I spent in North Carolina, about 6 years ago, was a traditional “southern” Thanksgiving menu. While everything smelled great, I found myself wondering what a few of the items on the menu actually were. What threw me off the most with this meal was the “giblet gravy,” which involved cooking all of the parts of the turkey that my mom had always thrown away – you know, the parts that come inside the little bag inside the turkey? The neck, the heart, the liver, things like that.  People eat those parts in North Carolina. They boil them up with celery, add some chopped boiled eggs, and mix it with the drippings from the turkey and add cornstarch.  And you know what? It’s really good!  Collard greens with vinegar are also an addition to the North Carolina Thanksgiving meal, which I have to admit I didn’t try until recently. Crowder peas were also a first for me at this Thanksgiving. For those of you who don’t know, they taste I think a little like a mixture between a pinto bean and a lentil? They are very good and now one of my favorite beans. Five years ago, I had no idea what they were. Homemade dark chocolate pie was also featured here, which was an amazing end to a great meal.

Marshall’s family, originally from Ohio, now their menu is similar to what I was used to in South Dakota, with a few slight changes. The turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans and sweet potatoes we all agree on. Though my family always made StoveTop in a separate pan, Marshall’s family makes theirs from a from-scratch recipe passed down from his Grandfather that involves cubing day-old bread, adding celery and seasonings and actually stuffing it into the turkey before you bake it.

After that, it starts to vary a bit. Marshall’s Grandma makes homemade cranberry sauce for the turkey – also something I had never had before, but it is really good. I think she puts mandarin oranges in it.  Last Thanksgiving, Marshall and I stayed in North Carolina and made our own Thanksgiving meal. I attempted to make his Grandma’s cranberry sauce, and didn’t quite nail it. Also included in his family’s meal are scalloped oysters, which I’m not sure but I think may have been added to the family holiday menu after Marshall’s parents moved to North Carolina 15 years ago and were able to bring fresh oysters up to Ohio when visiting for the holidays.  There is no lefse in Marshall’s family, but instead homemade yeast rolls. Dessert includes pecan pie and pumpkin pie for everyone. While my extended family was so large that we lots of times ate holiday meals with paper plates, sometimes running out of silverware before everyone was through the line, Marshall’s family eats with his Grandmother’s fine china and real silver. Bloody marys also make an appearance at the Ohio Thanksgiving, and glasses of wine for everyone at the table.

This year, we are also going to spend Thanksgiving in North Carolina.  Since our family menus vary just a bit and we can’t agree upon what NOT to make, here is what we are planning to make for the two of us:
1. Turkey
2. Stuffing
3. Cranberry Sauce
4. Mashed Potatoes
5. Gravy
6. Sweet potatoes
7. Creamstyle Corn Casserole
8. Green Bean Casserole
9. Scalloped Oysters
10. Lefse (from my Grandpa, fresh from the freezer)
11. Pumpkin pecan pie (we combine them into one pie)

Would anyone like to join us? We’ll be having Thanksgiving all week.


  1. Oh Darcy, that sounds delicious!
    My mom always made real stuffing growing up and I never liked it. Now I usually have stove top :). I'm terribly jealous of your frozen lefse though… Have a great Thanksgiving!


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