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Their Thanksgiving is the 'real' one

Joanne and Ray Wolter, standing right, with family

Joanne and Ray Wolter, standing right, with family members and friends at the 1999 Macy’s parade. Credit: Handout

After our marriage in 1976, and the arrival of our three children, Ray and I would take the kids to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The first time was in 1986, and our family has gone fairly regularly since. However, attending the parade made it difficult to make the big, traditional Thanksgiving dinner, so if it was our turn to host, we had to skip the parade. As the children got older, they wanted to invite a friend or two for dinner, but I explained that their friends would be having dinner with their families and would not be able to eat with us.

By the 1990s, we hosted Thanksgiving every year, and in 1992 we hit on the perfect solution that has been a family tradition ever since. We combined going to the parade on Thanksgiving Day with helping out at a soup kitchen. We then celebrate the "Wolter Family Real Thanksgiving" on Friday.

We invite family, the kids' friends and our friends. Over the years, "Real Thanksgiving" has included up to 36 guests! When the kids were in college, all their friends who could not get home for the holiday would end up at our house. Our first celebrations involved only one "kids' " table, but through the years, we often had three kids' tables!

Last year, my husband and I returned from a trip to Italy on Thanksgiving Day, but that did not stop us from serving the full menu on Friday for 26! We always top off the weekend with a trip to Santa at Macy's Herald Square, and dinner in New York City. "Real Thanksgiving" has become a beloved tradition in our family, and Thanksgiving remains my favorite holiday!

--Joanne J. Wolter, Farmingville

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