Break with Tradition


Jennifer FlatenThis post by Jennifer Flaten

Thanksgiving is approaching, a holiday that is rife with traditions. Sure, the traditions vary from family to family. For some, the tradition is to use recipes handed down through the generations while for others the tradition is to hold the gathering at a specific location.

Traditions are funny things. Most of the time we do them because we like them, that’s why they are “tradition”  Sometimes we do them because we feel we have too, which can make the tradition feel like a burden.

Even if it is a tradition we love, there are times when the tradition can oppressive. Maybe you are always the one to host the party. You do all the planning, cooking and prep. Or maybe, you have to travel a long distance.

Yes, you love the result, but getting there, not so much. So what happens if you break tradition? Well, you just might discover a great new tradition or you might end up returning to the old tradition, which is what happened in our family.

For years, my mother hosted Thanksgiving at her house and it was always a “traditional” meal. Alofile9811259341282ng with the prerequisite turkey, sweet potatoes, pie and canned cranberries, we had grandma’s stuffing–the special one that had no recipe.

Days before Thanksgiving my mom and grandma would fuss over the stuffing adding a little of this, a pinch of that and tasting it to see if it was “just right”.

Every year, without fail they would declare the stuffing ready, but they never stop to write down what steps made it so. Nope, they just pressed onward with preparations leaving the stuffing undocumented and sure to lead to a whole round of “just right” tastings next year. It was tradition.

One year, my mother decided she was tired of the traditional Thanksgiving and wanted to have a something different. She decided on a Chinese Thanksgiving. Now my mom is chief party planner and brooks no disagreements with her plan, if she wanted an untraditional Thanksgiving she was going to get one.

No turkey, no stuffing, instead we were to have Chinese food. Now, this wasn’t take-out Chinese, instead my mom made her homemade chop suey. So really, it wasn’t even a Chinese thanksgiving more like a Wisconsin hot dish thanksgiving. We had rice, and wine and fortune cookies for dessert.

The meal was delicious, the company was great, but we never did it again. The next year we had a turkey with grandma’s stuffing. Even now, 20 years later, anytime someone suggests changing Thanksgivings menu my mom laments the year we didn’t have a turkey.

Sometimes veering from tradition is the perfect break you need to appreciate why you have the tradition in the first place.

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12 thoughts on “Break with Tradition

  1. We used to vokunteer at The Salvation Army for Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinner. We got away from that for several years, going to our son’s for Thanksgiving and our daughter’s for Christmas. Last year we volunteered at The Salvation Army for both meals and the kids ddelayed their meals until we got there. Cherl’ey


  2. Good post Jennifer. Our traditional Thanksgiving was always a ham with my mother’s special pineapple baste and lots of cloves stuck in for flavor. My father didn’t like turkey so she compromised. It wasn’t until I was married and had Thanksgiving with my mother-in-law that I discovered what a traditional Thanksgiving turkey meal was all about. Although I usually cook a turkey now, with stuffing and all the rest, my favorite Thanksgiving meal will always be ham the way my mom made it. Makes me hungry just thinking about it! We’ve tried a buffet at a restaurant for Thanksgiving, a Mexican meal, and even a picnic, but nothing is as good as your tradition. It’s part of who you are.


  3. We always have to have turkey at Thanksgiving time, whether we host or go to one of the kids. My guy loves turkey leftovers – turkey and stuffing casserole, turkey tetrazinni, cold turkey sandwiches, etc. A new tradition is our son’s pumpkin soup – unbelievably rich and sooo good. Our new son-in-law is hosting this year.


  4. It’s funny about traditions, I think we love the ones we have because they mean the family gets together and we feel the love and cohesiveness of a group, even if it’s only for a day! I’m always astonished that someone could love a certain holiday when they don’t celebrate like I do! Ha. It’s the relationships that are important–although they might run a close race with the food for me! Your post brought memories–good ones.


  5. For me Thanksgiving is definitely reliving the traditions and recalling the memories of loved ones no longer with us. I have a photo of a Thanksgiving at my maternal grandmother’s house in NE Ohio — in 1966 or 1967. I’m in 8th or 9th grade. We’re all seated around the table — mom, dad, grandpa, Aunt Ethel, my sister Jody, Uncle Denny and his first wife Dee. But where’s Grandma Mid? Oh, there she is — standing behind us, just like always. I can see her dishes… they now belong to Jody and she now has some of them hanging on the dining room walls. So many of the people in the photo are in Heaven — Grandma Mid, Grandpa Frog, my mom, Aunt Ethel. But new generations now eat with us… my nieces Quinn, Nicci and Vanessa and their husbands, and Quinn’s little boy Griffin. So, yes, traditions keep getting remade. This year, I won’t be returning to Ohio. I now live in Nevada, too far for a visit for Turkey. Instead, I will be sharing in traditions of Sharon and her father Charles. We thought we might go out to eat, but Sharon has decided to cook a turkey. I’m smiling.


  6. My mom usually made turkey, but sometimes we had ham. Not being a ham fan, I much preferred the turkey years. Now, I live about 8 hours from the rest of my family, so for several years, I’ve had Thanksgiving with a friend who includes us “orphans” in her family meal. The food is always delicious, and I always eat too much, and I always feel like I’m with family anyway.


  7. Jennifer- the interesting thing about your mum’s change of menu is that you still remember that year. Many of the others might be only vague. I like the idea of having traditions but don’t mind little changes to menues. For me, the important thing it getting together with family.


  8. Years ago my sister and hubby both confessed they loved Thanksgiving, but not the turkey. But Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the turkey. So we added a item to the menu. Our family Thanksgivings now include turkey and ham.


  9. My husband and I have no family close by, so we’re making our own traditions–usually dinner out. And when we eat at home, we generally have non-traditional steak and vegetables. That way we don’t have a lot of food left over, especially the kind we don’t need to eat two days in a row.


  10. I love the Thanksgiving traditional food and family, and though my husband and I can’t always visit our extended family (families), we stay true to the food selections. One year we shared T-Day turkey dinner with friends at their house and another we were able to eat T-Day dinner at our cabin: I loved that and I hope we can do it again!


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