Imagine a Thanksgiving with so much food that nobody noticed the turkey was never served. Or, trying to host Thanksgiving in China where holiday staples like turkey and dinner rolls are almost impossible to find. Not every Thanksgiving in America is a folk-art painting. They are as varied as Americans themselves, and run the spectrum of emotion and experience—from as rural as watching Grandma slaughter the holiday bird by the barn, to the traditional with family football games in the yard, and to the modern with multicultural meals complete with eggrolls.
It is a holiday for everyone—regardless of whether arrival to the United States was via the Mayflower, Ellis Island, international airport, or any other way. It is a holiday steeped in traditions (which are either faithfully followed, radically ignored, or adapted to individual circumstances), memories and images.
In Thanksgiving Tales: True Stories of the Holiday in America, 48 writers from across the United States share their individual stories and memories of Thanksgiving and provide insight into the variety of ways the holiday is experienced, celebrated, viewed and cherished by Americans. But, whether held in a country farmhouse, amid the frantic pace of New York City, or in a restaurant, there are a number of common elements. These stories reveal how seemingly simple things—like the passing of a tradition to the next generation, sitting next to Grandpa, favorite foods and recipes, or certain sounds, sights, and smells—can have special meaning and leave warm and indelible memories.
Some of the humorous and funny Thanksgiving stories describe chaos and mishaps of meal preparation, family arguments and first-time hosts—all disasters then, but now looked upon with laughter. Other inspirational Thanksgiving stories recount family traditions, meaningful moments, memorable guests and hosts, remembering those no longer with us and being alone for the day. There are even some stories about out-and-out hating the holiday. Thanksgiving Tales is a reflection of Americans, as much as it is a look at the holiday.
It is a testament to the importance of the holiday that Americans will go to great lengths for Thanksgiving—spending money to travel long distances or taking days to prepare meals, sometimes only to find themselves seated next to the weird cousin or sick all night from bacteria-laden food. Yet, it’s done all over again the next year.