Beyond the Turkey
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and for many Americans, that means a day of eating too much turkey and pumpkin pie, catching up with family, and spending a lazy afternoon in front of the television before spending part of the weekend going shopping.
Of course, every family has its own unique routines for celebrating the holiday, so we decided to round up a few of the strangest and most interesting Thanksgiving traditions from households around the country. If your family has a unique Thanksgiving routine, tell us about it in the comments section.
Photo Credit: Cloned Milkmen
The Paintball Tournament
Nothing says family time like shooting each other with paintball guns, at least if you’re a member of the Briggs family from Illinois. Each year, Mark Briggs and 20-25 of his relatives spend the day after Thanksgiving participating in “multi-generational paintball wars.”
“It sure beats sitting around watching yet another football game, eating yet another turkey surprise,” Briggs says. “It’s all completely safe, with full protective gear, but there’s nothing quite like the release of marking that brother-in-law that really bugs you, or that niece who is otherwise the prissy princess, now dressed in camouflage!”
Briggs and his family have been playing paintball during Thanksgiving for about 15 years. At that time, the children in the family kept requesting paintball guns, and eventually, Mark and the other grown-ups conceded, buying them four or five pump and shoot guns. As the kids grew older, Mark says they used their own money to buy better equipment, which in turn forced Mark and the other adults to upgrade to “heavier armaments.”
“It’s really taken on a life of its own,” says Briggs.
In all the years, the Briggs family has never had a serious injury or issue to speak of. Says Mark, it’s really “no worse than playing checkers or Monopoly” after Thanksgiving.
Photo Credit: Ken Thomas
Thank You Notes
If there is one main message behind Thanksgiving, it’s remembering to give thanks, which is why Roberta Temes and her family have a special Thanksgiving ritual.
“Everyone writes on a slip of paper what he or she is thankful for, and you are not permitted to write health, family or money,” Temes says. “Then papers are folded up and thrown into a bowl. Each person then picks and unfolds one paper and must guess who wrote it.”
And since Temes’ Thanksgiving get-together includes some 20 relatives of all different ages, the answers do vary dramatically.
“When one family moved away the grandmother was thankful for JetBlue. One preschooler wrote that he was thankful for eggs, just because the only other words he knew how to spell were mom and dad, and they are not permitted. Facebook and iPods are often mentioned, also Spell Check, and flashlights were invoked by the homeowner who had a 14-hour power failure.”
Photo Credit: ralphandjenny
The Leftover Party
For Rob Barrett and his family, the best part of Thanksgiving may be the leftovers because it gives Barrett, a cook, a chance to work his magic.
“One of the things we most look forward to is our Leftover Calzone, even to the point of people not wanting to finish anything so we can have it,” Barrett says.
In order to make the calzone, Barrett rolls out some pizza dough, then throws on a layer of turkey, followed by mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Then he rolls it all up together and bakes it, creating a meal that is at least as good as the main Thanksgiving course.
You can watch a video of him preparing the dish here, in case you want to try it out for yourself this year.
Photo Credit: Muffet
Crafty Beaver Day
Julie Umnus and her family would rather do anything than go shopping during Thanksgiving weekend, so they came up with another way to pass the time.
“For the last seven or eight years, rather than go shopping, my mom, me and my sisters have been using the day for bonding over craft projects,” Umnus says, referring to the event as Crafty Beaver Day. “The projects range from personalized photo serving trays to scented soaps to hand-painted glasses, you name it.”
Sometimes, the men in the family join in as well.
“Dad has been recruited in years past to do some drilling or hammering in the garage, and my nephew made gourmet pizzas for our dinner last year, so we don't have a strict 'women only' rule,” she said. “But for the most part, its just us girls, bonding over our shared loathing of the Black Friday crowds, and shared love of each other and being creative.”
Photo Credit: reconstructionist
The Spoon Contest
Alison Risso and her family have an odd way of celebrating Thanksgiving: They hold a contest to see who can get a spoon to balance on their nose the longest.
“I have no recollection of how that tradition began,” Risso says. “It’s a contest we’ve been doing for the past couple years and my mom is usually the winner, either because she cheats, or because her nose is distinctly shaped.”
“It’s a bunch of pretty smart people doing something pretty stupid,” Risso confesses.
But dumb or not, Risso has learned a thing or two about how to keep a spoon balanced on your nose, which could maybe save your life one day (hey, you never know).
“The trick is to put the spoon in the back of your hand to warm it up, and then put it on your nose for a couple seconds. Then you can get it to hang there for a good minute or two if you’re lucky,” she says.
Photo Credit: Pingu1963
For two years now, Shera Dalin and her relatives have taken part in a Thanksgiving family quiz. She and her daughter ask family members to answer a short questionnaire before the holiday, and then create placemats or napkins out of the answers. Then they ask the other family members to guess which answers belong to whom.
“It gets really interesting with my dad, who is a jokester, and gives answers like “Vito’s pizza covered in chocolate and whipped cream” for his favorite food,” Dalin said. “But since my family has all the grandparents who don’t each other that well and live in different cities, this is a nice way to get to know each other and have fun.”
Photo Credit: madmolecule
The Thanksgiving Campfire
Looking for a different kind of Thanksgiving experience? Maybe you should try roughing it like Nadene LeCheminant and her family used to do when she was a kid.
“My family went into the mountains and roasted a turkey on a stick over a sage fire,” LeCheminant said. “It was too cold to sit on the rocks, and we were too hard up to afford camp chairs, so we stood around the fire and sang songs and told jokes.”
So why did the family decide to stop this tradition?
“I think it took too long and we were too hungry,” LeCheminant says.
Still, she and her family continued to celebrate the day outdoors by taking long hikes on Thanksgiving morning before eating.
Photo Credit: JelleS
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