9 Moms on What Makes Their Thanksgivings Unique

When you think about Thanksgiving, it’s easy to picture a big family crammed around a long table, eating turkey, stuffing, and green bean casserole (or just the starchy sides if you’re What’s Up Moms’ Managing Editor Meredith Hoffa who decided a few years ago that poultry prep is a total drag).

Whether you skip the main dish, or decide to ditch dinner all together, THE ONLY RULE IS THERE ARE NO RULES. That is to say: the world is your oyster – or your oyster stuffing if you want to be all festive.

These moms and their families have come up with their own unique rituals, but they all have one thing in common: No matter the activity, the day revolves around spending time with the people you love the most in the world (or… er….the ones you have to love).

We Put the Men to Work — And Stay In Our Jammies

“One year my mom declared she was on strike and said she wasn’t cooking or setting the table. She bought a turkey and paper plates, put my dad in charge of all the cooking, and spent the day in her pajamas. That was more than 20 years ago. From that Thanksgiving on, we all spend the day in our jammies, my dad and brothers cook, and we get Thanksgiving-themed paper plates — which are always hilarious. It makes the day really about being together and it’s my absolute favorite favorite holiday.”

– Jodi Rieger, Croton-on-Hudson, NY

We do Cheesy Crafts as a Family

“We started making construction paper turkey hats when my oldest was one, and my kids refuse to let the tradition go. The hats are not impressive at all, and I assumed my kids would grow out of it — but they still love them and wear them at Thanksgiving dinner.”

– Sarah Bradley, East Haven, CT

We Serve Traditional Native American Food

“I honor my indigenous lineage by preparing pashofa, a Choctaw stew made with hominy and pork. We also do turkey and dressing and all that, but cooking a traditional dish helps remind my children that indigenous people need to exist in the popular narrative. We also talk about how the English settlers, or ‘people who came to visit,’ were sometimes nice and sometimes mean to people who were like Choctaws.”

– Sascha Guinn Anderson, Santa Fe, NM

We Take a Family Hike

“My husband and I are travel bloggers, and when we lived in South Korea, we missed out on a lot of holidays. No turkey. No stuffing. No pumpkin pies. The only way we could feel connected [to our familiar traditions] was by getting outside for a hike every year. We came back to America and the tradition lives on! Last year was our first with a baby, so we bundled her up and headed for the trails!”

– Christina Riley, Durham, NC

We Go Out For Indian Food

“We have a small family, so instead of cooking a big dinner, our tradition has been to take my mom and go eat at our favorite Indian place. We’ve been doing it since our son was three years old and they look for us now — 10 years running. We spend some time talking about how thankful we are for diversity and for the accidents of birth that have made us citizens of the United States. Then, we stuff ourselves and go watch the Cowboys play football.”

– Lane Buckman, Dallas, TX

We Feed Our Neighbors in Need

“We spend the day before Thanksgiving volunteering at a local nonprofit. We package and help deliver more than 700 turkey dinners for elderly and homebound residents in our city. We’ve been taking our kids since they were very little and it’s one of my favorite days of the year!”

– Julie Fratrik, Jersey City, NJ

We Contribute to a Family Heirloom

“Our family has been signing the same white tablecloth at Thanksgiving for the past 20 years. Each year we pick a new color to sign with and then my mom embroiders over everyone’s signature with yarn of the same color. It’s special because we can step back in time each year and see signatures of the little ones that could barely sign their names ten years ago – to the signature of my grandpa who has passed on.”

– Sarah Achenbach, Madison, WI

We Celebrate Being an Immigrant Family

“I’m an immigrant, so our family’s Thanksgiving table includes the traditional fare, like turkey and casseroles from my husband’s Midwestern family, along with a few traditional Russian dishes from my culture. Kids help prepare the dishes and we express gratitude for everything positive that happened during the year, with particular gratitude for surviving and thriving in the U.S. as an immigrant family.”

– Masha Rumer, Bay Area

We Exercise for a Good Cause

“Our little family of three gets up early and runs/walks a 5K to benefit a local shelter. Then we come home, get back in our cozy PJs, eat cinnamon rolls, and watch the parade on TV.”

– Jennifer Denniston, Granger, IN



Emily Farris lives in Kansas City, MO with her burly husband, toddler son, and two rowdy rescue mutts. She's written for Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and The Cut. When not busy cleaning up somebody's pee, she's posting about drinks and home decor on Instagram @theboozybungalow.