Our first family traditions post highlighted a red carpet couple and their shining star son, a Korean-American family with totally typical traditions, and a rowdy-dice rolling game that’s the highlight of one Chicago family’s holiday get-togethers. We had so much fun learning about the way EI fans and family across the country celebrate their holidays that we just had to share a few more!
Big Family, Big Fun!
Maria, Guillermo, Ricky, and Eric Gonzalez
For as long as she can remember, Maria Gonzalez has hosted upwards of 40 friends, neighbors, and all of the members of both sides of her blended family for Thanksgiving. Thankfully, everyone contributes to her pot luck party–the feast includes two turkeys, two hams (Maria looks forward to her sister Eva’s ham all year long!), and all the trimmings. Maria’s cooking has come a long way since she made her first turkey (hey, who hasn’t accidentally left the bag inside the bird?) and her family comes a long way for her celebrations. Relatives look forward to this whole-family gathering all year, taking time off of work and traveling from as far as Las Vegas, Yuma, and Calexico to be together, and often saving important announcements for the gathering, like new jobs, engagements, and additions to the family!
Maria’s sons enjoy the Thanksgiving gathering, too—it’s a time to see their favorite cousins who live hundreds of miles away—but they also look forward to another one of Maria’s holiday traditions. All year long, Maria’s family gathers gently used clothing and toys to hand out to children in need on the family’s annual Christmas trip to Maria’s native Mexico. At first the boys were nervous, giving their gifts to strangers, but now they really get into the spirit of giving. In fact, the boys remind Maria to gather goodies for their holiday giveaway all year long.
- Pumpkin pie or apple pie? Pumpkin pie – you can get the other pies anytime, but pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving tradition
- What do you love most about your family? I love that everyone makes the time to come together, traveling from out of state to be with the family. Making memories with the little ones, not just the adults.
- What does Thanksgiving mean to you? Being together with the family, being thankful for what we have, and letting my brother in law say the prayer before the meal!
Yes to Presence – No to Presents!
Jenn Ryan and Erin Alsop and their children, Jake, Kennedy, and Alex Ryan
When it comes to get-togethers at the Alsop Ryan home, the more, the merrier! From the very beginning, moms Jenn and Erin instituted a no-gifts policy for all of their parties—including their children’s birthdays and the holidays. That way, the kids could invite their entire class or sports team without worrying that some kids wouldn’t come because their families might not be able to afford a gift. The Ryan kids, Jake, Kennedy, and Alex, get plenty of wonderful toys and games from their parents, so their friends’ presence was far more important than their presents! Their “invite everyone or no one” and “no gifts” policies teach the kids the importance of inclusion and kindness and that spending time together is the best gift of all, particularly during the holidays.
To Jenn, Thanksgiving is a time to show gratitude to the people she loves, to teach her kids to be grateful, and to be thankful for the many wonderful things she has in her life. But Jenn tries to embrace the spirit of Thanksgiving each and every day, sharing her many blessings with everyone around her and sharing her attitude of gratitude with her children. In fact, if there are any leftovers from her big family’s Thanksgiving dinner, Jenn, Erin and their “little roommates” (the three kids) will box them up and deliver the delicious goodies to folks who might not have had a celebration of their own, spreading a little holiday joy along with a delicious home-cooked meal.
- Pumpkin or apple pie? EVERYTHING! We are a family of “ANDS.” We like pumpkin AND apple AND strawberry, and everything else that ends in “pie.” We’re lucky enough to usually offer a selection of delicious desserts on Turkey Day. That being said, Alex usually dares to be different: he prefers stuffing for dessert.
- What do you love most about your family? We decided a long time ago that, as a family, we were committed to being truthful to one another. We place a high value on honestly and openness… we call it our “no poo policy.” We tell our kids—you know that icky feeling you get when you don’t tell the whole truth? We don’t want you to feel that way! It’s better to be open and honest, and by doing so, you can always avoid that feeling of poo!
- What’s your funniest Thanksgiving story? Our youngest son, Alex, is part Native American, and last November, we told him, “Alex… with Thanksgiving right around the corner, this might be a good opportunity to share with your teacher, and maybe your class, a little bit about your background. What do you think?” Alex says, “Mommy Jenn, there are already a bunch of Indians in my classroom.” I replied, “Really? I didn’t know that! Who?” Alex retorts, “Well there’s Deepak, and Krishna, and Priya….”
Old World Meets New
When Michealangelo Sicilliano left southern Italy for America in 1957, there were just some customs he couldn’t leave behind—and most of them had to do with food! Nonno and Nanna, as he and his wife were known to their grandkids, hosted the family’s annual Thanksgiving dinner (and Christmas and Sunday dinners, too!) for as long as anyone can remember. EI’s Creative Director, AnnaMaria, was fortunate enough to be born into this foodie family–her father was Michealangelo’s son and he and his brothers and sisters lived within a 10 mile radius of their parents. This meant that the entire family came together to celebrate every Thanksgiving in their grandparents’ basement.
Eleven aunts and uncles and 21 grandkids shared the meal, which included the traditional fixings along with plates of lasagna, manicotti, potato fritters, and hand-cured Calabrese salami. The meal was served Italian style—soup first, then the main course and sides, followed by a salad. Nonno’s homemade wine flowed throughout the meal and stories of the old world flowed around the table, in Italian, of course. Although her grandparents are no longer with her, AnnaMaria still treasures the memory of those old world Thanksgiving dinners and her family’s passion for their native foods and looks forward to sharing her family’s traditions with her partner, Alicia.
- Favorite side dish – My Nonna’s Italian green beans—she puts tomato sauce with them and they’re so good!
- What she loves most about her family – I love that they’ve worked hard and endured. They’ve been through a lot, including extreme poverty. I have a lot of respect for them!