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Take Care Not to Foul Up Your Tradition

Take Care Not to Foul Up Your Tradition

Robert Kirby | The Salt Lake Tribune

Thanksgiving is (ominous drum roll) almost upon us. You better decide soon what kind of Thanksgiving you are going to celebrate. Some forms require prior approval from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Will it be the traditional Thanksgiving? By this I mean turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and a heart attack. Or will you go for a totally post-modern Thanksgiving of beer, Chinese food and football?

Most people opt for tradition, with maybe a few added wrinkles of their own. For example, while it’s common knowledge that the pilgrims and Native Americans celebrated the first Thanksgiving by feasting on turkey, it’s not exactly clear when candied yams and Jell-O salad entered the picture.

I was raised on Thanksgiving orthodoxy. Every year, my parents sat us down to a turkey the size of a Volkswagen. We ate until our internal organs relocated into our legs. One year, my little brother exploded.

So be careful. Tradition can be a dangerous thing, especially if you are trying to follow it with only a vague sense of how it is accomplished. Most holiday traditions are a lot more complicated than they look.

I learned this the first time I tried to celebrate Thanksgiving on my own. Trapped in Nalgas de Vaca with three other homesick LDS missionaries, we decided to ease our pain by recreating the Thanksgivings we knew and loved.

It was not a decision we treated lightly. We talked about pumpkin pie, buttered biscuits, turkey and stuffing until, starving and delirious, we lost our minds and decided that we could do it ourselves. After all, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by a highly conservative religious group stuck in a strange land.

Our first mistake was to buy a live turkey from a local farmer. The turkey was so small and pitiful looking that Elder Boone felt sorry and wanted to keep it and name it Tom.

The farmer solved that dilemma by cutting off the turkey’s head.

Cruel as it sounds, this actually made Tom a lot more alert for about 30 seconds. We had to dog pile him to get him in a sack, ruining four white shirts in the process.