Thanksgiving Traditions (from a Yankee point of view)
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. My family was always big on Thanksgiving, going all out to make sure everyone was stuffed by the end of the day. Diets be damned, we were going to eat, we were going to start early, and we were going to continue until we could eat no more. Thanksgiving was the only day of the year I would get my turkey leg, along with a smorgasboard of food that we’d never see 364 other days out of the year. However, it was always more than just that one day to give thanks and eat . . . and eat . . . and eat . . .
Back in New Jersey, Thanksgiving was always something of a three day event. I knew many an Italian household who always ordered a pizza the night before. For years this was our ritual as well. Extra cheese, pepperoni, something that you don’t have to put in the oven AND it comes right to your door! Oh, sweet convenience, because the following day, if not later in the evening, it was going to be nothing but chaos in the kitchen. Or with the relatives. “When did this go in,” “how much longer does it have,” “did you put the salad on the table,” a never ending list of “did you,” “did we,” and “at least it didn’t burn.”
Football has always been a huge Thanksgiving tradition, much like the Macy’s Parade. One long lost tradition was channel 9 in New York showing an afternoon marathon of three gorilla classics (raise your hands if you remember these): Mighty Joe Young, King Kong, and Son of Kong. Starting in 1978, it was a monster movie’s fan dream, and the only time you could see these movies back to back to back. Channel 9 did well enough that they eventually threw a Godzilla marathon together for the following day. And who could forget thoes Crazy Eddie commericals throughout the afternoon, who’s prices were, “innnsaaaaannne.” Sadly, this tradition stopped at the end of 1985 with the Godzilla marathon ending as well.
I have no idea how Alice’s Restaurant became a Thanksgiving tradition. A song that starts off with an invite to sing along and ends encouraging resisting the draft and protesting the Vietnam war? That doesn’t sound a lot like Thanksgiving to me. Yet every Thanksgiving, there it was. Broadcast across the airwaves of at least two New York radio stations, I’m sure across the country as well, the entire 18 minute, 34 second song from Arlo Guthrie’s debut album, “Alice’s Restaurant.” I always left it on for the same reason I think most did. It just seemed to be the thing to do.
The day after was spent putting up my grandmother’s Christmas tree. Each year it seemed to be a new set of decorations, more than enough to block out three quarters of the tree itself. Maybe it should’ve been called the “decoration tree.” Popcorn on a string, lights that bubbled, lights that blinked, mirror ornaments on top of the ball ones . . . there’s a tree in there somewhere. I know there was. I helped put it together. By the end of the day it was lights out in the living room, lights up on the tree, “look how beautiful” and “don’t tip it over.” The former was easy. The latter, not so much.
Most of all it was a day to be thankful for the people I was surrounded with, the wonderful people who entered our lives during any given year, and that we were all going to bed that evening with full stomachs, something that happens to way too many people. Those are the traditions that stay just as alive now as they did back then, long after the last monster movie has ended.
If anyone has any Thanksgiving stories they’d love to share, we’d sure love to hear them.