Thanksgiving is a delicious day filled with the love of family and friends. For most, it is one of the best days of the year.
Many memories are made during such gatherings, and often, recalling favorite times past – like grandma’s dressing or playing games – can add to the sweetness of the holiday.
On Saturday, Kinsley Paden, 3, wanted to keep moving as her parents shopped at Walmart in Tahlequah. At the aisle with shiny, wrapped turkeys in multicolored foil, she chose the orange ones and reached down to pick one up. It was slow going at first, then she was able to lift the large, frozen bird into her arms. Her parents, Katie and Joey Paden, encouraged her to keep lifting.
This year, Joey will be smoking a turkey when family gathers at their house, using the new smoker Katie gave him for for their anniversary.
“I’ve been experimenting with different kinds of meats,” he said.
His Uncle Jeff is coming from California.
“I’m looking forward to his salsa, but my favorite part of the meal is dessert: chocolate cream pie,” said Katie.
Joey’s grandmother makes ambrosia salad, one of his favorites.
“We haven’t decided if I’m making banana pudding yet,” said Katie.
Her favorite part of Thanksgiving is everyone being together.
“Our Thanksgivings used to be all of our family getting together. My favorite memory was taking a nap with Uncle Darrell on the couch. He’s still my favorite uncle,” she said.
About 10 people will be at the Paden home, and the family will also celebrate with friends.
“We have a couple of different people to see, Friendsgivings and other family to see,” said Joey.
Time with her siblings is what Sarah Chase enjoys most, along with seeing the whole family. They’ll be meeting at her grandparents' house in Fort Gibson.
“All my siblings are getting together; my brother is coming from Fairbanks, Alaska. He’s in Special Forces and going to Ranger School in December," said Chase, who realized she has to cook. "We’ll be meeting his girlfriend. It’s going to be real fun. I won’t be able to walk for a week after eating so much."
Those who are 25 and older bring food, Chase added.
“We play cards after lunch. There’s lots of laughs. We’re all so different, but it’s fun," Chase said. "My grandma makes homemade chicken and noodles and rolls the dough. She taught me; it’s my great-grandmother’s recipe."
She’s glad she has a family full of good cooks.
“Last year, we had a COVID brief get-together, but this year, we’ll stay longer,” said Chase.
Denise Ballard looks forward to spending time with family. They meet at a restaurant rather than the home of a family member.
“We will be celebrating with our family dinner at Jincy’s Kitchen. All of our family will cook and take food there. Deb Rucker is so kind to share her place with us,” said Ballard, who makes the lemon pies. “Oh, man, it is very hard to say a favorite food. I love so many but I look forward to Granny’s cornbread salad. I love lots of desserts, but lemon pie is one of my favs."
They don’t have a lot of traditions, but deviled eggs is one.
“I look forward to this time of year, as it seems family get together get less and less with everyone’s busy schedule, and I love spending time with family. My favorite memories are always the laughter we have when we are all together,” Ballard said.
Not everyone gets to go home for the holidays. D.C. Coleman will be working on Thanksgiving, but plans to still eat with friends and relax. The Northeastern State University student will miss being with family in Lawton.
“I like being around family and having unity,” said Coleman.
Candied yams are his favorite food for the holiday, along with smoked ham and smoked macaroni and cheese.
“My mom’s Jell-O cakes are the best,” Coleman said.
Traditional foods mean different things to different families.
Being with family is what Anita Duncan looks forward to the most. She’ll be going to her sister's house or niece’s house; it was still to be decided.
“That’s the one time of year we all get together,” said Duncan.
Last year, they didn’t get together, so she’s even more so excited about Thanksgiving.
“We always have turkey and dressing. I make the turkey. They make sweet potatoes with marshmallows, green bean casserole, and of course, mashed potatoes with gravy and rolls,” said Duncan.
As for desserts, she wasn’t sure.
“Our baker's gone to be with our Maker. My brother-in-law made the best pies and cakes, real good ones. Last year was his last Thanksgiving,” Duncan said
When Duncan was young, her grandmother, Mary Glory, would host all the family.
“She made kanuche, and my sister makes that sometimes. I like traditional Cherokee foods,” she said.