Holiday traditions: The good, the bad, the bland | Guest Op-ed


In America, Thanksgiving traditionally has been a time for families to get together, eat way too much homemade food and watch some serious football.

Wedged somewhere between the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, copious college and professional football games and the tons of turkey, cranberries and yams piled high atop the dining room table, a prayer of thanks is supposed to be offered for the bounty of the season.

After all, isn’t that the whole reason for the celebration in the first place?

Family traditions often are the glue that binds many families together. Some only get together at Christmas or Thanksgiving because of the long distances between family members and logistical or financial considerations.

I grew up in southern California, where long-standing family traditions have an odd way of changing every year. Our typical traditions revolved around how much money was available to be spent on Thanksgiving dinner – after all the bills had been paid, of course.

My father preferred ham, so our “meat of choice” for Thanksgiving dinner was not the succulent roast turkey with cornbread stuffing I had hungered after all year.

Sometimes the meat of the day wasn’t even ham.

My sister, Marilyn, remembers a Thanksgiving dinner consisting of greasy meat loaf, lumpy mashed potatoes and canned green beans.

It must have been some great holiday dinner. Fortunately, I have managed to block that one completely out of my memory bank, so I can’t speak from personal experience.

Another family tradition that died a very slow and painful (for us) death was my mother’s notion that cooked celery could be considered a real vegetable. Thankfully, she served it only on holidays. And there were enough other heaping plates of food on the table that we could say, “Sorry, Mom, there’s no room on my plate. I’ll get it in the next round.”

Years later, my sister and I finally worked up the nerve to ask our mother what in the world inspired her to think that boiled celery was a viable alternative to your standard, everyday, leafy green veggies. She didn’t know, Mom replied in a slightly testy tone, but nobody had ever complained about it before.

Of course, we watched the Macy’s parade in the morning and all the football games, including several reruns, that we could stomach in one day. For those who are too young to remember the “dark ages” of television, we only had a few channels to choose from and many games were blacked out for later viewing. Dad didn’t care if he already knew the final score – it was the Rams game, for goodness sakes!

After dinner, Dad would always end the day snoring loudly on the couch (watching the above mentioned Rams game) while my sister and I attempted to clean up the disaster area that previously had been our kitchen. We’d slide the pocket door closed between the kitchen and dining room and harmonize at the top of our lungs to old songs from the 1930s and 40s. (Don’t even ask . . . they were old back then, too.)

I never even held it against Marilyn when she tried to electrocute me by dunking my left hand in soapy dishwater while wrapping my wet right hand around the handle of a deep-fryer basket. And yes, it was plugged in at the time.

I guess I’m just lucky that one never developed into a family tradition.


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