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How Some Families Customize Thanksgiving With Their Own Unusual Traditions

Nov 27, 2019
Originally published on November 27, 2019 9:28 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Turkey, football, taking a moment to reflect on what we're grateful for - those are some pretty typical parts of Thanksgiving. But some families customize the holiday with their own traditions. We hear now from several of them.

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MICHAEL DRESCHER: My name is Michael Drescher. I live in Franklin, Tenn. And we have an unusual family holiday tradition that I married into. My wife's family has, for long as anyone can remember, gathered before they go into the Thanksgiving table. They gather in the family room. And everyone that's there - anywhere from 10 to 30 people - line up, single-file line, and they put their hands on the shoulder of the person in front of them. And we process around the house singing (singing) be kind to your web-footed friend. And then it goes on from there.

So we wind our way towards the dining room table. It ends abruptly, and we all sit down and start eating like it's a perfectly normal family holiday.

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MADELINE MEDINA: My name is Madeline Medina (ph). I live in Clarksburg, Md. My holiday tradition started about 10 years ago. We had planned to have family from out of town come up and have Thanksgiving with us. And on Tuesday, the kitchen sink backed up, and all the toilets backed up. So we ended up at Steak 'n Shake. And so it just kind of became the running joke in the family - ha-ha, we'll just get a Steak 'n Shake for Thanksgiving. And we actually have.

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NICK SMEGULA: My name is Nick Smegula (ph). I grew up in northern New Jersey in Randolph. And my family has a tradition that I don't think I've ever heard anybody else have. About 30 years ago, my family started wearing pajamas on Thanksgiving. One thing led to another, and we started having themed Thanksgivings.

Our themes started out simple, wearing ugly Christmas sweaters or wearing crazy pants. And they slowly progressed to wearing pirate costumes. We had a luau Hawaiian-themed Thanksgiving. One year, we all wore togas. And these costumes get pretty elaborate. On Hawaiian Thanksgiving, my aunt was dressed as a full volcano and sat at the table in a costume that was probably 4 feet wide and contained about maybe 15 to 20 pounds worth of sprayed-on insulation painted to look like a rock.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Thanks to Nick, Madeline and Michael for sharing their unusual Thanksgiving traditions. And just like the holiday season, we're just getting started. So what about the rest of the year? Does your family have its own quirky Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah rituals?

SHAPIRO: If so, please share them with us. Email nprcrowdsource@npr.org. In the subject line, put odd holiday tradition, and tell us a little about them. You might wind up on this program next month.

CHANG: Again, that address is nprcrowdsource@npr.org. Just pack all those words together like stuffing in a turkey. Happy holidays.

(SOUNDBITE OF WALTER WANDERLEY'S "OS GRILLOS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.