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Nina Garcia's Thanksgiving Traditions

“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.”


When I first moved to the States from Colombia, there were a few things I did not understand. For example, the L.L.Bean duck boots that all my classmates wore at boarding school in Wellesley, Mass. Nor did I understand the excitement surrounding American football games. But I immediately fell in love with Thanksgiving—I loved the food, the gathering of family and friends and the fact that we take an entire day off to celebrate gratitude.

Since marrying my American husband and having our two sons, Thanksgiving has become even more special to me. I may have been born on Colombian soil, but I know how to celebrate this holiday with the best of them. At the Garcia-Conrod house, it all starts with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and it ends in a food coma, but we have several well-established traditions that come in between:

Cooking With the Kids

My sons always help to make one or two simple dishes so they feel connected to the Thanksgiving feast. They are not yet ready to tackle the turkey and twice-baked potatoes, but here are three tried-and-true recipes that kids (and adults) of all ages can master:

Pumpkin hummus: A creative, festive twist on the traditional hummus. This recipe suggests that you use dry garbanzo beans and let them soak overnight, but I have used the canned version and nobody has complained yet.

Cornbread: No Thanksgiving meal is complete without some cornbread. This version is a universal crowd-pleaser and so simple to make.

Pumpkin pie: I have tried so many different pumpkin pie recipes, but the recipe on the back of the Libby’s canned pumpkin remains the easiest and most delicious one of all. Why mess with perfection?

Creating a Tree of Thanks

For me, showing gratitude is the most important part of Thanksgiving (with good pumpkin pie being a close second). To make sure the reason for the holiday is not lost, I create a Tree of Thanks with my boys. There are several ways to make a Tree of Thanks. My two favorites are:

A cardboard paper handprint tree: You can make this craft with your children several days before the holiday and display it for all of your guests to see. Save these trees year after year, and reread them with your children each holiday.

A tree with twigs and ornaments: Have the guests at your Thanksgiving table write what they are thankful for on a premade paper ornament with a string attached to it. Before dinner, go around the table and have everyone read, one by one, what they wrote before they hang their ornament on the tree.

Reading Thanksgiving Books

Once the meal has been cleaned up and all the guests are gone, I curl up in bed with my boys and read to them from some classic Thanksgiving picture books. Here are a few of our favorites:

A Turkey for Thanksgiving, by Eve Bunting

Mr. and Mrs. Moose invite Turkey to their Thanksgiving dinner; but Turkey is afraid to go, since he doesn’t realize they want him to be a guest at their table, not the meal. This is a wonderful story that teaches us that friendship and gratitude are the reason for the holiday.

I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie, by Alison Jackson

A charming spin on the classic tale, “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” The first line reads: “I know an old lady who swallowed a pie, a Thanksgiving pie, which was really too dry.” As the pages turn, the old lady swallows the cider, the squash, the salad…

Turkey Trouble, by Wendi Silvano

As Thanksgiving approaches, Turkey is afraid he may end up as the meal, so he comes up with all sorts of disguises so nobody will know he is a turkey—a cow, a pig, a rooster. The silliness and clever wordplay will have you and your children delighted the whole way through.

Happy Thanksgiving to all the moms and their families! And tell me, what are some of your traditions?

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