By Heather Skolnick
Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season for many. Thanksgiving triggers autumn images of softly falling leaves and a feeling of chill in the air–a sure sign of what’s to come weather-wise. It signals the beginning of the holiday shopping season for those in retail with a daily countdown to Christmas or Hanukkah. And for many, it evokes memories of meals and unique traditions that encircle the meal. These Thanksgiving traditions can be pretty wide and varied.
As a child, my Thanksgiving traditions were pretty straight forward–extended family came to eat. And eat we did. We enjoyed turkey with the standard carbohydrate-laden fixings, and enough desserts to satisfy the sweet tooth of a small nation. The meal was not complete until we all suffered from indigestion–all before 7 p.m. It was what we did before the meal that was different. Each year, my father and I awoke earlier than most on a holiday, put on sweats, and took a short drive to a neighboring town. We then participated in a local “Turkey Trot”–a five-mile run in an attempt to help offset the meal we’d be eating a few hours later. That was our tradition.
My husband’s family didn’t believe in the “Turkey Trot”–instead, Thanksgiving was all about football. Neal, his brothers, cousins, dads and friends all got together to play a serious game of touch football. The colder, wetter and muddier it was outside, the better the game. While their game would end before dinner, the trash talking around that game could last an entire year. Area resident and brother Lyle said, ““We would even keep track of records, from most touchdowns, consecutive games with a reception, best play, to worst mistake, and most times ‘giving in’!” Building on the football theme, after playing, they would all return home and begin watching the football games on TV before indulging in their meal.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a popular tradition for some. Chappaqua resident Lisa McGowan has a deep rooted tradition of going every year with her family that began when she was a child. She and her family spend the night before in the city, and begin heading to the festivities at 6:30am to secure their spot. She says about the parade, “Now that my children are older, it’s no longer about the characters. The thing that is constant no matter their age is that it’s about being together, family and tradition–rain or shine.” Lisa is dedicated to the tradition, having gone in years when the weather was spring like as well as rain and snow!
Signaling the official start of the holiday shopping season, Black Friday shopping has long been a tradition for some. Amazing short-lived deals often abound on that day with stores opening early and staying open late. Eager to squeeze an extra shopping day in before the holidays, shopping on Thursday evening has more recently become an option. Many big box retailers and shopping centers are now open for post-dinner shopping.
Let’s not forget our local stores, many of whom offer great deals after Thanksgiving too! Best of all: Shopping local offers the convenience of holiday shopping nearby without the hassle of maddening crowds.
Volunteering is a wonderful way to enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving while enjoying some quality family time. One option is to spend part of the day together, helping to provide a meal for others. Neighbor’s Link coordinates a food drive in anticipation of the holiday. Susan Aarhus spoke to me about what Neighbor’s Link provides to the community. She shared that on the actual day, they provide a full Thanksgiving meal and a full bag of groceries to take home. Area resident Nitasha Kumar said of her experience volunteering with the Westchester Basket Brigade last year, “My son along with three other kids had so much fun running around counting and setting out the boxes. But what hit him most was when the head coordinator talked to the group about the mission of the organization….bringing food to homeless. He then realized that there are others who are not as fortunate as we are.” What a wonderful way to spend the day.
While many think of a nice home cooked meal for Thanksgiving, another option is dining out. While many restaurants are closed for the holiday, some do remain open for those of us who are not so inclined to cook and many also provide catered take out options to eat in your own home.
The common theme threaded through all of these traditions can clearly be identified as spending quality time together as a family and/or with those who are most important to you. So whether you are a traditionalist in your Thanksgiving approach or not, remember that Thanksgiving is about being surrounded by those who are important to you and appreciating the moment.
Heather Skolnick is a New Castle resident along with her husband and three children. She works for a retailer designing their Omnichannel Process and Systems.