Nontraditional traditions make Thanksgiving special

The big Thanksgiving traditions are properly acknowledged—ad nauseam, if you ask me—every year. There are, however, some important Thanksgiving traditions that have not been given their just due. So today I would like to do just that.

The famous Thanksgiving salmon. If you’re vegetarian like my wife and I, then you shirk the traditional turkey in favor of something that contains considerably less bird meat. (By the way, as vegetarians who eat fish, we are technically “pescetarians,” but I am not even going there. Most people we meet in Arizona are already flabbergasted by the term “vegetarian.” There’s no need to make it worse.) And the closest thing to bird meat is a dead, pink fish. It’s not like we’re going to eat some flimsy tilapia. I mean, it’s Thanksgiving for crying out loud, not Memorial Day.

If you think family rolls their eyes at your vegetarianism the other 364 days a year, just wait until Thanksgiving. I remember our first vegetarian Thanksgiving like it was yesterday … (dream sequence)

Mother-in-law: You mean Uncle Paul has to make the turkey, the ham, AND salmon?! Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph you two … (performs Sign of the Cross) … I don’t know how I’m going to tell him this. You can’t give up this crazy idea for ONE DAY?

(end dream sequence)

Ha ha! Good ol’ Thanksgiving fish tensions, just like the Pilgrims experienced. Another neat thing is trying to pass the salmon around to the rest of the family—“WOULD ANYONE LIKE TO TRY THE SALMON? IT’S DELICIOUS.”—and everyone has to restrain themselves from angrily knocking the plate of salmon out of your hand.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Nothing says Thanksgiving like a weird British musical about chocolate and a purple girl who might implode. The first and only time I ever watched this movie from beginning to end was when it aired on a Thanksgiving Day of yore during that awkward time after a cinnamon bun breakfast (another tradition) but before football. Why I assigned the airing of this movie that one time to holiday tradition instead of pure chance is beyond me, but there are other people who share my suspicion that Willy Wonka is, indeed, a Thanksgiving movie.

In fact, I Googled “Willy Wonka Thanksgiving movie?” and while most of the search results could not parse this combination of words, I did discover at least one (only one) site on which the movie was included in a list of “Top 10 Thanksgiving Movies.” So there. I don’t even know if the movie airs anymore on Thanksgiving, but the point is not to watch Willy Wonka Thanksgiving Day, it’s to think about Willy Wonka. And like, be thankful for it. Or something.

Lady Gaga. Thanksgiving Day 2011, ABC aired “A Very Gaga Thanksgiving.” It was everything I thought it would be and then some. It was basically Lady Gaga walking around a piano and singing while talking about her life, and featured guest stars Katie Couric and Tony Bennett, because of course it did. Oh, and as Wikipedia reminded me in its synopsis, “American chef Art Smith accompanies Gaga with a turkey dinner and waffles. In another scene, a small group of children gather around her as she blows glitter on them.”

To my great chagrin, this was a one-time special as opposed to an annual one. But our family still tries to acknowledge the wonders of Gaga every year by listening to any number of her famous Thanksgiving songs, like “Poker Face.”

And hey, who knows—maybe your family celebrates Thanksgiving with other, lesser traditions than these. The point is that you have a happy Thanksgiving. So like … do that.

Note: This column appears in the 11/20 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/21 issue of the Peoria Times.