Non-traditional Thanksgiving Traditions
Military life can be a challenge around the holidays, but it also gives us the opportunity to create new traditions and memories. The ladies from InDependent share our favorite Thanksgiving memories.
"We usually invite as many people as possible over to celebrate Thanksgiving, which was especially important when living overseas. Being back here in the States is no exception, except that now we invite people over to my in-laws' house. Thanksgiving has always been special to both of our families, so that is why we like making people feel at home as much as possible for the holidays. In Germany, we made sure that if anyone wanted to telephone home they could by using our landline since we paid a flat rate fee for international calls."- Meg
"I had my first Thanksgiving in Germany the same day my spouse went back to Afghanistan after his two-week R&R. It was sad, emotional, and the realization that my turkey pans were too big for my tiny German oven only added to the stress. But, hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the other ladies from the unit the night he left was therapeutic, helping to alleviate some of the sadness with good friends, food, and laughter.” - Leslie
“My first Thanksgiving as a military spouse was spent alone without my husband, as he was deployed. I was also without family because I was too far away to travel home. I ended up going over to a friend's house where we had a lovely dinner together. Leftovers are my favorite part of the meal but I didn't get any to go, so I went to the grocery store and bought a pre-made turkey, cranberries, mashed potatoes, rolls, veggies, and a sweet treat. I munched on my own feast for a week to make it feel as much like "normal" as possible. It was a better alternative to cereal, which was the second option on the list." - Michele
"The first year we were married, I cooked a turkey for the first time by attempting a technique behind my skill set. I brined the turkey, then roasted it with a piece of cheesecloth on top that I had to keep wet with the basting fluids (white wine, butter, turkey drippings). It had to roast for three hours and I had to baste it every 15 minutes. At about the two hour mark, I opened the oven to find the fat-and-alcohol-soaked cheesecloth on fire! Thankfully the turkey was still edible and our guests, a few other couples from the unit who were far away from home, complimented me on the interesting smoked flavor. Ha! The snapshot of smoke alarms buzzing, a hopeful, drooling Labrador, and me lifting a flaming piece of cloth out of the oven with a pair of silver salad tongs will forever resonate in my personal narrative as an example of my manic, inexperienced go at Thanksgiving.” - Joy
"We've had all kinds of variety in our 12 Thanksgivings as a military family. We've spent it in Prague, Budapest, and on a boat in Egypt. We had four years in a row when we were stationed in California and got to spend every one with my family. We've had years alone, because we didn't make plans beyond cooking the big meal." - Kimberly
“Our first Thanksgiving in Germany, my spouse had just gotten back from deployment. We'd spent the several days leading up to the holiday getting settled into an empty apartment. We were sleeping on an army-issued mattress, had two plates and two forks each, had no TV, and were using a cardboard box as a dining room table. We were in no position to have a Thanksgiving meal and needed to get out of town before we both had a breakdown. We booked a last-minute trip to the Edelweiss Resort in the German Alps. When we pulled up to the gate, I distinctly remember crying because it was the first time I had felt like I was back in my comfort zone since arriving overseas. Admittedly, culture shock had gotten the best of me. We had a fantastic Thanksgiving meal at the resort during a time when I needed the feeling of home more than ever.“ - Michele
"In 2005, we were keeping our fingers crossed for orders to PCS from Italy to California. No orders made us nervous. We still decided to hold a farewell Thanksgiving party with our Italian neighbors. Italian food is amazing and I knew my go at cooking would be a far cry from what my neighbors were used to. Still, when I brought the beautiful Butterball from the kitchen to place on the table, our guests applauded and they all loved the food. I've never been more proud of a culinary achievement. The orders eventually came and we made it out in the nick of time. Even as we were leaving, my landlord asked me to make him a pumpkin pie the day before the movers came as he thought he'd never have one again. To me it was just a pumpkin pie, but from his perspective, it was just as interesting and exotic as the delicious Italian food I'd grown to love.” - Joy
“We had two really special years when we lived next door to a family that we had been stationed with before. My friend Mary and I prepared a feast for three generations of a German family that had really taken us under their wings. They showed us all of the neighborhood secrets so we could live like locals. They worked in my garden and helped stack wood to prepare for winter. They took care of us like we were family and we were excited to share our American traditions with them at the Thanksgiving table.” -Kimberly
What unique traditions have you included in your Thanksgiving holidays? Share in the comments below.