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My Turn: Our Thanksgiving traditions

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving in many homes without

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving in many homes without the wishbone. Credit: iStock

"It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without . . ." Act 2 readers share what makes the holiday special.


Turkey Day with the irony chef


The aroma of sautéing onions and celery always reminds me of stuffing, which, in turn, makes me think of turkey, and, of course, that brings me to Thanksgiving. I remember with fondness all the dinners at my parents' house; Mom up at the crack of dawn to get the bird in the oven on time, long rows of tables and chairs, children of all ages gathering, and everyone looking forward to a great dinner.

I then smile remembering all of my Thanksgivings with my mother-in-law, Rita, who was not known for her culinary skills. Although she raised a large family, she never enjoyed cooking. When my husband and I married, we decided to split the holidays between families. Christmas at my parents' house and Thanksgiving at his. We all held our breath when Turkey Day rolled around, asking the $64,000 question: "Would she be able to pull it off?" Dinner was an iffy adventure. We never knew if there would be paper plates on the table (why waste time washing all those dishes?), if the mashed potatoes would come from a box (why waste time peeling all those spuds?) or if the gravy would have lumps. Desserts were always good because they were either homemade by the daughters-in-law or store bought.

We were a big group and growing every year, so as we all gathered and the joking and teasing began, we really didn't focus on the dinner; we just enjoyed being together. My in-laws are a loud, fun family and laughing is always a big part of any celebration. We all helped Mom in the small kitchen, and I would watch as she put everything together, always putting cream of mushroom soup in her gravy, which would have been a definite no-no in my mother's house. As we all found our seat at the table and the turkey was carved and the serving bowls were passed, we were always amazed that Rita would come through, again! Everything was really pretty good, nothing horrible, everything edible, definitely a fairly decent meal.

I think Rita's secret was that she absolutely loved Thanksgiving and had asked each of her six children when they married if they and their spouse would always be at her house for the holiday. We ended the meal with fruit and nuts and what all the grandchildren remember fondly and have named Grandma Mints. These are the little square mints that come in all different colors and you find in a cellophane bag. The grandchildren insist that we must have these each year at Thanksgiving dinner, even if they sit in the candy dish untouched. It's a tribute to Grandma Rita and her love of Thanksgiving and family. Because of her, there are now more than 30 of us who gather every year to celebrate and keep the tradition alive.

--Jane Bavoso, Massapequa Park



Obeying Murphy's Law

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving at our house without a "glitch."

There was the memorable year the storefront below us did not pay the utility bills, leaving us with no lights or heat. (A kind emergency ConEd employee appeared in the nick of time.)

Then there was the year the turkey did not fit into the pan. (We managed to borrow one in time.) I bought a new large roasting pan the next day. The only problem: We moved before the next Thanksgiving and found out on the big day that the pan did not fit in the new oven. (We adjusted the ends with a pair of pliers.)

There was the year the turkey did not defrost, the year we couldn't get the cranberry sauce out of the newly designed cans. There was a year my husband lost the money while shopping and the year he threw away the nicely browned and crispy skin while carving. (This was before we all worried about our cholesterol.)

Last year, the help crew added all the clams to one pot of chowder, leaving none for the second pot. (A quick scouring of everyone's pantries saved the day.)

There have been family illnesses and traffic delays, but despite all our big or little problems, Thanksgiving dinner has arrived on our table surrounded by a very close, loving and thankful family. We are even thankful for this year's glitch: Our niece's family will not be eating with us this year. Their newest addition is due this month.

--Jinny Warren, West Islip



A tradition of 'Ants' and uncles

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving for the Orzel families without our traditional finger-flickin'-fun "Ants in the Pants" tournament at my mother's house in Glen Cove.

In 2003, my brother Thomas suggested we do something fun and different in between our turkey dinner and the boys' touch football game. So, he took the "Ants in the Pants" game that belonged to his kids, Claire, then 7, and Andrew, then 6, and put it on my mother's kitchen table. From that moment, a tradition started for all 21 of us (ages 6 to 70 at the time).

The object of the game is to flip, with a flick of your finger as fast as you can, plastic ants into a big blue overalls container. Whoever flicks four ants into the overalls first gets to play in the next round, which then advances them to the finals. Everyone makes a donation to the pot, and the winner takes home the coveted "Ants in the Pants" trophy, handmade by Thomas, along with $100 or more in cash!

A silly and funny game, but the laughs and family moments we all have every Thanksgiving is something we will always cherish. And those memories will last a lifetime.

--Gloria Luchsinger, Farmingville



A berry nice memory of Dad

A dish of cranberry sauce was placed next to my dad's plate since he was the only one who enjoyed it. And we all made faces and comments while watching him place it next to his slices of turkey. But since his passing almost 13 years ago, that cranberry sauce has been present at our Thanksgiving celebration, and I, in his honor, put some cranberry sauce next to my slices of turkey and make the face, and my eyes fill with tears missing him so very much.

--Phyllis Barone,Bohemia



This one takes the cake

My birthday, Nov. 24, has fallen on Thanksgiving Day many times in my 54 years. The family used to bring out my birthday cake on Thanksgiving Day, whether the days were exactly the same or close. This challenged our appetites to make room for cake as well as turkey and the trimmings.

--John Whitton,Bay Shore



Weathering the storm

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without my community sharing the festivities with my family.

After superstorm Sandy, their homes were flooded and one was completely devastated. The warmth felt for each other was demonstrated in a variety of ways. I had one person staying with me until her electricity came back on and the water was pumped out. She was able to put her aggravation on hold while we talked and laughed together.

We helped each other in any way we could -- hospitality was abounding. I look forward to this Thanksgiving as it will be a very special one, indeed.

My love to all who shared this catastrophe and survived.

--Leila Haime,Howard Beach


When we wish upon a bone

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a tradition that my grandfather and I have shared since I was a little girl. Every year after dinner, when everyone is cleaning up, my grandfather removes the last remnants of the turkey meat and pulls out the wishbone. He brings it to me and we share that very special wish while seeing who can break the wishbone. Even though I am now 20 years old and in college, I still look forward to coming home and sitting down to Grandma's turkey dinner. The thing I look forward to the most is Grandpa cleaning off the wishbone and the two of us sharing that very special moment.

--Danielle Sin, Port Jefferson Station

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