Families prep for another year of delicious Thanksgiving traditions

The Thanksgiving holiday, observed annually on the fourth Thursday in November, is usually a time for food, fellowship and, most importantly, family.

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It’s the start of the week, a day before Thanksgiving, and many families — especially Black ones — are already prepping for dinner.

Turkeys, hams, cranberry sauce, stuffing, macaroni and cheese ingredients and every kind of pie and cake you can think of, among other things, are spread across counters and kitchen tables everywhere. Even though the aroma of fully cooked food is not yet present, you can sense it is on the way.

The holiday, observed annually on the fourth Thursday in November, is usually a time for food, fellowship and, most importantly, family.

Thanksgiving traditions with Black families
Thanksgiving is almost here and Black families across America are preparing to gather for a lot of fun — and even more food. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

“My favorite tradition is cooking Thanksgiving dinner with my mama,” said Ashley Hollins, a Ph.D. candidate at Jackson State University. “Since my [maternal] grandmother passed in 2015, the way we did Thanksgiving had to change.” 

Hollins said that after her grandmother passed away, her mother, Jacqueline, began to take on the responsibility of cooking — of course, with her assistance. Like many other families, they start preparing on the Monday before Thanksgiving, and she is in charge of the main course.

“I didn’t even know my mama could cook dressing until my grandma passed, funny enough,” she said. “But we’ve been able to take what my grandma taught us and adapt it to our own recipes for tradition. In recent years, I’ve become more of a cook in the family, so I am always on mac and cheese duty, and I have crafted the perfect recipe.”

With her family, Hollins said, she also likes to sing, play silly games and watch football at home. Her family “sings down” whenever they come together, she noted, saying a Baptist song is always fitting.

The Rev. Dr. Danny Hollins, her father, echoed those sentiments and made it clear that there’s one controversial dish he can’t go without.

“[I enjoy] just being with family,” he said. “The traditional dressing, some turkey and the regular fixings. Chitterlings. The ball games, particularly the [Dallas] Cowboys game, and discussion regarding the Christmas gathering location.”

And while it’s still lovely to take a day off of work and get to spend as much time as you please with family — provided they aren’t journalists or, let’s say, frontline medical workers — not everyone will want to continue the same traditions.

“The only traditional thing about my family is what we eat,” said Keyasha Pace of Waynesboro, Mississippi. “We literally never eat at a decent time. The same people always do the work, cooking and cleaning. Honestly, I don’t want to continue any of those [with my own family] because it’s beyond played out.”

Thanksgiving Day isn’t all that different for the Burks family, who get together for that exact purpose every Sunday after church — except there’s more to delight in.

“I just enjoy the fellowship,” said one member, Samone Morgan. “We’re together every Sunday anyway, so it’s pretty much the usual good time, but we get to enjoy a lot more food.”

Thanksgiving will be somewhat different for Texas resident Kelani Young this year because her grandmother passed away over the summer. She won’t be spending time with her family like she usually does; instead, she’ll be with her childhood best friend and some significant business associates. Even so, she will never lose the memories of her regular rituals.

“We don’t eat breakfast on Thanksgiving; gotta starve until the food is done,” Young said jokingly. “Prep begins a night or two before. Old-school R&B and blues can be heard playing only during prep and the day of. Eating [is done] while watching football.”

Young said it’s always a good time, and she plans to continue the same cooking traditions with her own little family someday.

For Texas teacher Destiny Johnson, it’s hard being away from family as she raises her son, Tyson, in a state six hours away. But regardless, she’ll never miss out on making it home for the holiday.

“I love being with all the people around my age that I grew up with,” she said. “We eat at 12 [noon] sharp. Dressing, all the sides, all the desserts. I’ll always make it home for Thanksgiving. I want Tyson to enjoy being with family for the holidays, for sure.”

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