I can’t remember the last time my family and I had a turkey at Thanksgiving. My grandpa isn’t a fan of turkey so we’d have different types of meat instead. “But turkey is the traditional Thanksgiving food!” people will say to me when they hear this. People also gasp when they hear that my family has mixed opinions on pumpkin pie, so we have other pies and desserts instead.
“But…but…tradition!” people argue, which makes me wonder: Says who? When did Thanksgiving become about specific foods served in specific manners? What about the importance of spending time with family? Can’t I have my own traditions?
Disappearing holiday traditions in our society are often blamed on television shows and movies. But the truth is that many of our traditions are reflected through these fictional worlds that now dictate what our holidays should be like.
“Turkey, lots of friends and family over, tons of food and football,” described fourth-year Kristine Magsino about what she sees as a traditional Thanksgiving. “TV makes you think Thanksgiving should be like that.”
Magsino, who was born in the Phillipines, says her family doesn’t celebrate many American holidays. “I’ve gotten used to how it is every year though.”
Even the idea of “family” has changed over the decades. Look back at the 1950s and you’ll see Donna Reed cooking up a storm for her hard-working husband and smiling children. Fast-forward to the 1990s and you’ll see six friends in a New York apartment. Now, “family” goes beyond blood relations.
The Thanksgiving episodes have become some of the most memorable episodes in the “Friends” franchise history. “Why are there so many memorable TV episodes about Thanksgiving?” asked Etan Bednarsh in an article for The Huffington Post.
As we get older, holidays seem to lose their meaning. Tradition becomes more and more important until it reaches a point where we forget what the holiday really means.
Since moving to Irvine for college, I haven’t gone home for Thanksgiving. In a way, it makes the concept of tradition more important to me because the Thanksgivings I grew up with are no longer a part of my life.
“In our own lives, what Thanksgiving conceptually represents is often dwarfed by the pressure to keep your tradition,” added Bednarsh in his article.
In some ways, this change in tradition in my life concerns me and makes me wonder if I’m missing out on something that the rest of the country is experiencing. I became so comfortable with the way things were. Isn’t that the point of tradition? So what has happened to my turkey-less, Sacramento Thanksgivings?
In season eight of “Friends,” Monica decides not to make a turkey for dinner, only to be told by Joey, “But you gotta have turkey on Thanksgiving! I mean, Thanksgiving with no turkey is like Fourth of July with no apple pie!” In season 10, Monica begrudgingly agrees to cook Thanksgiving dinner despite her initial unwillingness.
The reason? Tradition, of course. Throughout the series’ history, Monica has hosted Thanksgiving dinner — what’s a “Friends” Thanksgiving without a turkey dinner at Monica’s place? If these six friends can make it work and always have their traditional Thanksgiving meal, then what does that say about the rest of us who have to endure changing traditions?
Not that I have anything against “Friends.” I own all 10 seasons on DVD and have seen each episode at least three times. Every year since freshman year, my roommate and I have watched all 10 Thanksgiving episodes around Thanksgiving time, laughing along with the gang at Chandler in a box or recounting the time that Ross got high. We eat pie and drink spiced apple cider and make an event out of it. It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve seen these episodes; we always enjoy our Thanksgiving marathon.
It has become our own tradition. “I know this isn’t the kind of Thanksgiving that all of you had planned,” Chandler says to the gang in season one, after all of their individual Thanksgiving traditions get ruined, “but for me, this has been really great.”
I think Chandler has the right idea. It doesn’t matter what dishes are prepared on the table or who burns what. Even over 300 miles away from home, I’ve realized that even though my Thanksgiving traditions have changed, the holiday itself is no different than what it’s always been: a day of gratitude and appreciation.