By Lane Stilson
This year, thousands of BYU students will return home to celebrate the nearly 400-year-old tradition of giving thanks. Though many of the early 17th century traditions remain the same, American families have added their own twists over the past few decades.
America”s Thanksgiving holiday stems back to the pilgrims” arrival in Plymouth, Mass., during a cold December in 1620. Thanks to the help of some friendly American Indians, the pilgrims survived the harsh winter and then celebrated their survival and bounteous harvest with a grand feast in November 1621.
At the feast, both the American Indians and the pilgrims ate boiled pumpkin, wild turkey, fish, deer, fowl and corn, in celebration of their new freedom.
But now, along with modern foods like cranberry sauce, stuffing and mashed potatoes, many families have adopted new traditions and unqiue ways to celebrate Thanksgiving.
“Every year we go out to a movie at the movie theater because nothing else is open,” said Rachel Murdock, coordinator for BYU”s Women”s Research Institute. “Plus, usually there are some good new releases to see.”
Murdock said another big part of her family”s holiday feast is football. The sport has become a holiday staple in many families, almost trumping the turkey or pumpkin pie.
“I think if my brothers had to choose between football or turkey, they”d choose football,” Murdock said.
Another tradition that many families have adopted is the “what are you thankful for” game. Family members gather together to express thanks for all the things they enjoy.
“I think it”s a nice tradition,” said Elizabeth Clyde, a senior from Connell, Wash., majoring in international studies. “It sometimes feel a little like testimony meeting, but it”s fun to share those things with just the ones you love.”
Some families have even created unique traditions of their own. Julie Perricone, a junior from Newark, N.Y., majoring in business, said each year her family has a weight-gain contest. Before the meal they all weigh themselves. Then after the feast, they weigh themselves again to see who has gained the most weight.
“It”s just something we”ve been doing as long as I can remember,” Perricone said.
Tyler Jennings, a junior economics major from Greensboro, N.C., said his mother has always them make small books filled with things they are thankful for.
In fact, Jennings said he likes Thanksgiving more than Christmas because the holiday is less commercialized and seems more intimate. Murdock also said Thanksgiving is better in her book than Christmas because she doesn”t have to spend money.
“I don”t like spending a lot of money on presents,” Murdock said. “Plus, there”s so much hype for Christmas and the focus is on the presents.”
She said her favorite thing about Thanksgiving is the focus on family and gratitude.
“It”s not like, “Oh look, I got a new CD. I should go listen to it,”” she said. “Instead you”re together with your family and all you focus on is each other.”