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24 Thanksgiving Traditions You'll Want to Make Your Own

24 Thanksgiving Traditions You'll Want to Make Your Own

Gather 'round for holiday rituals from Martha, plus Living staffers and extended family.

A divine setting and a mouthwatering meal are just one part of a memorable Thanksgiving. But the real flavor comes from the people you celebrate with, and those unique traditions that you make your own. Without them, well, what can we say? No pie would taste as sweet. Here, Living staffers and friends share how they enjoy the day.

Martha Says...

“Every year we take a hike after our Thanksgiving lunch. It’s good to get outside and exercise, since we have just eaten so much! When we come back, we make turkey sandwiches, which is my favorite meal of the day.”

Elizabeth Graves, Martha Stewart Living's editor in chief, says...

“My brother and I both live on the East Coast now, but we always go back home to Wisconsin, bringing our families to be with our mom (aka Grammy Grace). Our brood has grown, but some things always stay the same: a leisurely, low-stress day of cooking (when it’s done, it’s done); my mom’s sweet potatoes and pecan pie; and guaranteed talk of the Green Bay Packers, whether they are playing that day or not.”

Katie Field, Living’s art director, says...

I grew up celebrating at a convent in Philadelphia. My aunt Jane is a nun. After they say the grace, we eat turkey and mashed potatoes, drink wine and beer, talk politics, and watch football.

Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill, in New York City, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, in Pocantico Hills, New York, says...

“We spend Thanksgiving at Blue Hill Farm in the Berkshires, a tradition that was started by my grandmother Ann. It’s the perfect moment to celebrate the abundance of fall in the Northeast. We overload our table with the sweetest possible carrots, parsnips, and celery root.”

Chef/restaurateur Geoffrey Zakarian says...

“We prep! The family that preps together enjoys a delicious meal together. We open Champagne, set out cheese and crudites, and get everything cut and measured a day ahead.”

Flora Grubb, owner of Flora Grubb Gardens, in San Francisco, says...

“We throw a huge dinner party at my boyfriend’s empty restaurant, Pizzaiolo. Once the bird’s in the oven, we go for a hike to collect things for our centerpieces. Then dinner, pie, and a big cleanup, aided by the industrial dishwashing machines.”

Katie Covington Crane, Living's senior style editor, says...

“My sister was a vegetarian in college, and to keep the peace, my mom started cooking a Thanksgiving fish with all the usual sides. We mix up how it’s prepared each year. November is also peak camellia season in North Carolina, so we skip the gourds and decorate the table with a floating camellia at each place setting.”

Amy Conway, Martha Stewart Weddings’ editor in chief, says...

“We get bundled up and head out for an easy hike -- usually about 15 of us -- as soon as the turkey is in the oven. We take a different route every year, and my sister-in-law Caryl writes a funny rhyming poem to direct our kids along, eventually leading them to a bag of gifts she’s tucked beneath some leaves or a log a few days before. Our kids now range in age from 7 to 16, but it’s still fun for them to discover these hidden treasures.”

Greg Lofts, Living’s deputy food editor, says...

“We converge on the family cabin in rural Pennsylvania. After dinner, we walk into the woods with s’mores fixings and Thermoses full of hot toddies and mulled wine and sit around a campfire, swapping stories and watching the stars.”

Eleni Gage, Martha Stewart Living contributor and author, says...

“Two must-haves: my grandmother’s cranberry-orange relish (the recipe is on an index card she typed in the 1940s), and my mom’s chocolate-Kahlua pie, which only appears once a year, thank goodness, or I’d just keep going up dress sizes.”

Photographer Ngoc Minh Ngo says...

“I roast chestnuts the night before to make stuffing and enlist my four sisters to help peel them. I usually destroy my fingers in the process, but it’s worth it.”

Jenny Rosenstrach, creator of the blog Dinner: A Love Story, says...

“In recent years, we’ve moved Thanksgiving out to my sister’s house in Long Island and ever since, we’ve started kicking off the feast with a massive selection of shucked oysters procured from a market that’s open only for a few hours early in the morning. It’s my kind of appetizer: fresh and local, and best of all, it takes up zero stomach real estate.”

Jaspal Riyait, Living's design director, says...

“I’m Canadian, so my husband and I get to celebrate twice: once in mid-October, then again a month later!”

Snoop Dogg, cohost of Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, on VH1, says...

“Thanksgiving is the time for all my family and friends to get together and kick back and relax. We set up a nice big dinner at the house. I love to go in the kitchen and help out with my favorite dishes, like macaroni and cheese.”

Erika Allen, projects director for Growing Power, an urban farm and community-outreach nonprofit in Milwaukee and Chicago, says...

“Our family meal reflects our African, indigenous American, and eastern European heritage. Dessert is a cheesecake adapted from my Polish great-grandmother’s recipe, and sweet-potato pies, which remind me of my African-American grandmother, Willie Mae.”

Vivian Howard, chef, restaurateur, and host of A Chef’s Life, on PBS, says...

“When I was a kid, our TV faced the kitchen, and I watched the Macy’s parade while I helped Mom make lunch. Now our TV is in our bedroom, and we eat the big meal late, so I make breakfast and my kids and I pile in bed to watch it together.”

Fritz Karch, Living contributor, says...

“My dad’s family shared one roasting pan. Whoever was hosting was the keeper, and every year there was much debate about who had it last. I now have the family roaster and continue the debate by never remembering which kitchen it was last used in, or when.”

Darcy Miller, Martha Stewart Weddings' editor at large, says...

“We start decorating the table the week before -- it makes the holiday last longer. My mom has always been our ‘calligrapher’ for place cards, and now my kids are taking over.”

Frances Vigna, Living’s copy editor, says...

“Living in Queens has changed my idea of family and community, so I’ve started volunteering to support individuals who are often marginalized in this big city. Last year, we served nearly 2,000 people meals at Bowery Mission, complete with white linen tablecloths.”

Jennie Tung, Living's executive editor, says...

“My parents’ wedding anniversary is November 22, and my mom and three of her grandchildren have autumn birthdays. So after the feast and along with the pies, we celebrate with a big Swedish princess cake, ablaze with candles.”

Claudia Wu, cofounder of Cherry Bombe magazine and coauthor of Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook, says...

“I’m in charge of dessert, so I try to make something we’ve never had before. Last year it was two flavors of ice cream and butter mochi cake. There are lots of options -- perhaps too many! -- but we like to say that people have a different stomach for dessert, so there’s always room for it.”

Ann Sackrider, Living’s research director, says...

“My family and friends have our Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday night, which leaves us all with a delightful four-day weekend. Thursday is a quiet, lovely day for roaming around. A friend and I always do a walking exploration of a part of the city we don’t normally go to; then we top it off with a movie and leftover turkey and pie. It’s absolute heaven.”

Dawn Sinkowski, Living’s photo director, says...

“Since my dad retired, he’s decided he owns Thanksgiving -- from the bird to the mashed potatoes. My mom, my sisters, and I aren’t allowed to set foot in the kitchen until cleanup duty, though we do give him lots of friendly pointers from the peanut gallery. The day after, we reclaim the kitchen to make turkey mole.”

Annie Novak, cofounder of Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, in Brooklyn, and manager of the New York Botanical Garden’s Edible Academy, says...

“I gather with fellow farmers for an early meal made with the best of what we’ve grown. I always bring my hot sauce.”