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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  It’s not the purview of any one religion, group or belief system. It is not centered around spending money or consuming alcohol. Thanksgiving is about the gathering of family, both family by blood and family by choice the blending of traditions, and about reflecting on the things in our lives for which we are most grateful. It’s about the collective preparation of a meal, and while each family’s meal draws from different histories, values and traditions, they aren’t about “wow,” not about fancy restaurants, not about new or innovative foods– it’s the one meal out of the year that generations of our families would find utterly familiar. For me it’s my great grandmother’s scalloped oysters (that my brother despises and complains loudly about every year), my grandmother’s stuffing, pecan pie made just the way my granddad liked it, cheese and chile tamales which are locally a traditional part of the meal, Susan Stamberg’s mother-in-law’s cranberry relish (if you haven’t tried it, you should) and the green bean casserole my mom thinks is the most disgusting dish ever, but that my dad’s mother made (maybe not so important to try).

And while every family’s Thanksgiving traditions are different—I know we could have heated discussions over whether turkeys are best fried, grilled, cooked in a roasting bag, brined, cooked with mole, prepped with rubs, free range, Butterball, or replaced with tofurkey—the gathering in the kitchen, jostling for oven time, preparing too many dishes in too small a space, generations sharing skills and stories, stepping over and around dogs or cats determined not to be left out of the festivities, nibbling on this or that through the day, tossing or kicking a ball in the backyard, watching parades, or football or listening to this year’s “Turkey Confidential” on NPR—the ideal of that day of family unity (imperfectly achieved to a greater or lesser extent) is fairly universal.

I know other holidays are flashier, sexier, more heavily marketed, but the joys in my life don’t come from those things. They come from being surrounded by the people I care about, both those who are with us, and those we’ve lost but honor by continuing the traditions they pass on to us, by cooking favorite dishes, laughing over kitchen mishaps, by throwing a ball on the beach with my niece and nephew and at the end of the evening sitting quietly in front of a fire with my dogs, all of us slightly over-stuffed. (Please note, most people foods and pretty much all that we make at Thanksgiving are not appropriate for dogs—and cats– and high fat intake can cause pancreatitis as well as other problems, so my dogs will be slightly overstuffed due to getting a higher proportion of canned food to dried than they usually do.) So Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. May you spend it with the people who are dearest to you.

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