Embracing Tradition While Safely Maneuvering A Different Thanksgiving Setting

thanksgiving traditions

Gobble, gobble, it is almost time to cut the bird and celebrate! Before digging into those mashed potatoes or jellied cranberries, take a moment to express extra thanks. While it’s true, chaos has ensued, this year has also blessed us with the opportunity to focus on our priorities and support one another.   

Despite having to celebrate Thanksgiving differently this time around – whether it be digitally, in spirit, or in smaller groups, the holiday is still about gratitude, family, and embracing tradition.

Tips for Celebrating Thanksgiving

Choosing to gather in person or celebrate virtually comes down to individual preference. No matter which method you choose, here are some tips to keep the holiday stress-free, enjoyable, and safe for all.

If gathering in person:

  • Wear a mask and wash hands frequently
  • Utilize disposable utensils, cups, and plates to reduce transferring germs
  • Provide plenty of space for guests to comfortably space out
  • Keep your gathering small, but intimate
  • Consider designating one person to serve or pre-portion meals
  • Respect those who choose not to attend in person

If celebrating virtually:

  • Be familiar with Zoom, Skype, or Facetime before the gathering
  • Confirm everyone invited has access to the platform to attend
  • Share a special recipe prior for everyone to prepare in their own home
  • Plan out a special toast, prayer, or story swap
  • Take a “screenshot selfie” to capture the memory of the holiday
  • Send a video message or photo greeting to those who cannot join

How Northeast Wisconsin Families are Embracing Tradition

In addition to the delicious array of foods, tradition remains one of the most important factors in this festive holiday! Here are some ways families in our community are celebrating Turkey Day!

“For us this year, I’ll be teaching my son how to bake a turkey for the first time. I’ll be doing a big meal with special plating, still doing the talk at the table on what we’re thankful for, and a prayer. We will also be doing the wishbone and a Thanksgiving craft the week prior.” 

Dawn French, Appleton

“My wife, Bethany, will be cooking a turkey and her dad and stepmom will be coming up. We started this tradition last year when we bought our house.”

Brian Fischer, Appleton

“We’re still getting together with my in-laws and will probably have a small gathering with my parents.” 

Casey VerVoort, Freedom

“We will definitely be cooking and eating good with all the traditional fixings – turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and desserts – with our immediate family here in town, instead of out of state like previous years.” – Dee Noffke, Appleton

“Our tradition is to roast a turkey at home and turn leftovers into pulled turkey to freeze and enjoy throughout the year. The girls will also video chat with grandpa and grandma that live out of state.” 

Charissa Hanisko, Appleton

“Turkey apples with my daughters! I take apples and add toothpicks for the two legs, trace their hands on cardboard and have them color it, then cut the thumb off for a turkey head and add a slit in the top of the apple to have the four fingers sticking out for feathers.”

Megan Klubertanz, Kaukauna

“We might try some new recipes and play games. We haven’t really planned too much yet, but are still getting together with my parents and brothers.”

Keara Starck, Greenville

“We are doing a pick-up of Thanksgiving dinner from a local restaurant and bringing it to my mom’s house for just our family and my parents to share, six of us total. Much different than our usual large family get-togethers, but safest for this year!” 

Kelly Davies, Kimberly

“We are still getting together with our family, minus grandma of course. We will be bringing her Thanksgiving dinner to her house so she can still enjoy her turkey and stuffing.”

Therese Canfield, Appleton

“I will be celebrating my baby’s first Thanksgiving with her while she is in the NICU.” 

Cindy Gengler, Little Chute

“We are still doing Thanksgiving with my husband’s parents like we always do!” 

Kimberly Cumber, Ripon

New Traditions to Try

  • Take a family photo using fun, Turkey-inspired props
  • Learn to make a family generational recipe, from scratch
  • Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
  • Volunteer as a family in your community (We have some ideas here)
  • Create a fabric handprint tablecloth or table runner and sign your name and the year
  • Play a new board game with the family; the losing team does the dishes!
  • Involve little chefs in helping to prepare the meal

Virtual Thanksgiving Games

Regardless of how different this year maybe, our traditions will continue. Growing up, one of my favorite Thanksgiving tasks was to help my mom bake homemade pumpkin pies. Mixing the dough was always the best part. The pie baking was deliciously aromatic and made you even more eager for mealtime. I also looked forward to the German red cabbage my mom would make, a “recipe” passed down through generations but was based on smell. Then, of course, was one of the things my daughter and I still love today – my grandma’s “green jello stuff,” a concoction of cottage cheese, lime jello, cool whip, and crushed pineapple. That will always make it to my table!

Lastly, with Thanksgiving comes gratitude. I am especially thankful for my family, especially my daughter. This year has been a challenge, but looking back, unbeknownst to me, I was lucky the entire time to have them all by my side. Wishing everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving. Don’t forget to break that wishbone, we need all the luck we can get for 2021!  

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