Thanksgiving Traditions – New and Old

The holiday season is quickly approaching and my favorite time of the year. I was never a big fan of Thanksgiving because of the turkey. It is dry meat. My family is a big fan of seafood. In high school, a relative with good intention thought she would help my mom by making the turkey. It was the driest bird I ever ate. After that incident, my family decided to do Thanksgiving our way – jumbo fried shrimp, seafood gumbo, king crab legs, and bbq ribs along with traditional Thanksgiving sides. For those of you who are like “what about the turkey?” What about it! My mom still made a turkey for any visitors that stopped by. We ate our Seafood Extravaganza at noon Thanksgiving Day. Then we spent the afternoon visiting relatives.
Not until my niece was born on Thanksgiving did it hold a real place in my heart. When she was born, my sister told me “I gave birth to your baby.” She was called my mini-me due to some personality traits, namely her wit and loquaciousness. My mini-me made a point of celebrating her birthday at Auntie’s house. After eating Thanksgiving dinner at my mom’s, Mini-Me would bring her overnight bag and spend the night at my house. The next morning we’d wake up like roosters so she could spend her birthday loot on Black Friday sales.
When the nieces and nephews were born, my sister started a tradition of having each one help make a side dish. It was a way to spend quality time, teach them how to cook, and share family history. At the table, each one would ask “how did you like X dish (the one they prepared)?” They waited for praise of how great the dish was and then bragged that they made the dish. In our house, there is no such thing as bad food or cooking. One bad dish could ban you from the kitchen. So they knew the praise was rightfully deserved. Even now, when I call home for Sundays, I am still amazed when my mom or sister says “the girls are in the kitchen making Sunday dinner.” They’re teenagers continuing the tradition. And yes, the boys cook too. They eat enough so it is essential to their survival to know how to cook.
Holidays are all filled with warm memories of family, good eating, and dancing. In our home, if you wanted to play music you had to go back to the oldest generation then work your way to today’s top 40. I grew up watching my Granny dance to junk joint blues. Then seeing my parents shake a tail feather and do Madison Time. My aunts taught me why Prince, Marvin Gaye and Teddy Pendergrass were so sexy . Being from Chicago, no party is a dance party until some Chicago stepping happens. I loved watching my parents, aunts and uncles, step and dance with their significant others. Lately, it is hilarious to watch my mom ask the nieces and nephews to show her the Cupid Shuffle or Wobble dance. When she drops it like it’s hot, the nieces and nephews frown then burst into laughter.
I am in New York City and I need to make new traditions because I don’t go home for Thanksgiving. I like to save up that time for my Christmas visit. A friend from Chicago is coming to visit me for Thanksgiving. It is her favorite holiday, so I must step up to the plate and do a full meal. Typically, my sisters and I share making the dishes. Side dishes are generally my specialty (gumbo, collard greens, and southern mac-n-cheese). My oldest sister normally handles the meats. Last year, my apartment was too small to cook so I was very New York and made reservations at a seafood restaurant for Thanksgiving. This year, I have the space and kitchen to host. Instead of being assistant coach to my sister, I am head coach. I grew up in a house full of great cooks. My granny and mom made everything from scratch. The pressure is on because tradition is on the line. I can’t disappoint.
Here’s my tentative menu:
*Turkey & Dressing
*Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
*Beef Roast
*Southern Style Mac-n-Cheese
*Collard Greens
*Brussels Sprouts
*Sweet Potatoes or Glazed Carrots
*Seafood Gumbo
*Cranberry Sauce
*Traditional Red Velvet Cake
*Rum Apple Cake
I am most concerned about making the turkey and the red velvet cake with beets not food dye. My granny and mom made homemade rolls, letting the yeast rise and such. After sifting flour for the cake, I won’t have the patience for the science of yeast homemade rolls – a chemistry project in and of itself.
The best part of Thanksgiving is that it kicks off my most favorite holiday – CHRISTMAS!  Snoopy, snowball fights, baked goods, hot chocolate, sharing and caring and the one time I hope to believe in peace on earth.

Ronda Lee
Founder, Editor-in-Chief
Ronda is an attorney, writer, and entrepreneur. She is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Originally from Chicago, she has lived in Los Angeles and New York. She loves to travel and is passionate about education equity, especially for first generation college students.