New Takes on the Old Thanksgiving

Since Thanksgiving is going to be different, it's a perfect time to try new traditions!

I know. Everyone keeps saying “this holiday season is going to be different.” Zoom is giving free unlimited calls for Thanksgiving so we can ask grandma just how much rosemary and thyme goes into the cornbread dressing, there is a record demand for small turkeys as gatherings will be smaller this year, and many of us are already planning what to do with the insane amounts of leftovers we’ll have in the weeks to come.

But aside from the food, there are all these little traditions that we might not be thinking about that we won’t get to do this year. Every year my grandpa brings his guitar and sings us his favorite tunes (along with a few originals he’s written), my mom makes special Thanksgiving day cookies, I get buzzed on Bailey’s, and, every year, per tradition, we forget the deviled eggs in the fridge.

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Traditions big and small make meaning of the passage of time. Like a metronome, our patterns give a steady cadence to our chaotic lives. Without these mile markers on the road of life, it’s hard to feel like we are moving forward. Perhaps that’s why we call these moments in life milestones, and why we commemorate them with celebratory traditions. How many times have we joked that it doesn’t feel like it’s already Thanksgiving? In a way, to a lot of people, it still feels like March or April. It feels like we are still stuck in the moment when life stopped, and because we couldn’t take our normal vacations or celebrate our holidays in a normal way, life feels like it’s not progressing.

Sadly, some of these goofy little moments with the Bailey’s and forgetting the deviled eggs in the fridge, won’t be happening this year. But that doesn’t mean the holiday is canceled. Traditions don’t have to be the same old motions we go through year after year. We can start new traditions and create new meaning for the holiday season. So to fill the void of missing out on our traditions this year, my husband Jon and I are creating new ones that will bring some joy and laughter into our home, commemorating the passage of time spent almost entirely in isolation, making holiday memories we definitely won’t forget.

What traditions will you be reinventing this year? Let me know in the comments!

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Arts & Crafts

Bust out the construction paper and bring out the Crayola because Thanksgiving is the perfect time to make arts and crafts! Going back to making hand turkeys or paper Thanksgiving centerpieces might help trigger a little nostalgia for the times we made arts and crafts in school, helping to make Thanksgiving feel more like… well… like Thanksgiving. Plus, art therapy is pretty effective and might help with the increased anxiety this pandemic has caused.

You can go out and collect fallen leaves, paint a gourd, or make a cornucopia. What kind of arts and crafts will you be making while waiting for the turkey to get out of the oven? Comment below!

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Toast with a new cocktail

One of my favorite holiday drinks is eggnog (though I don’t always drink it warm or with rum — I prefer it straight outta the carton from the fridge). But instead of going with the same old in my household, I’m going to try a different, creamy, spiced rum drink. I’m going to try Jessica van Dop DeJesus’ Coquito!

Coquito is a traditional rum and coconut based cocktail enjoyed in Puerto Rico and throughout Latin America. It’s loaded with tons of warm, aromatic spices that are sure to spark some festive feelings! The recipe is on her Facebook Page, but check out her Dining Traveler Cooking Series video for fun cultural facts about the drink, as well as variations on the recipe!

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Starting Christmas Early

I have always been anti-Christmas until after Thanksgiving. Ask my mom who used to pick me up from school in September blasting Bing Crosby’s Christmas cassette tape. But this year is different. Jon wanted to decorate the Christmas tree for his birthday, so we’ve actually had it up since the beginning of October. I’ve gotta say, now that the sun sets around 4:30pm, it’s been really lovely having the Christmas tree up. It makes our living room brighter and cheerier.

Hallmark also releases new Keepsake ornaments really early — like July. So periodically we’ve been ordering new nerdy ornaments — ornaments that commemorate things we’ve really enjoyed this year like the Mandalorian, Nintendo video games, and even the return of Animaniacs. Getting a new ornament in the mail and adding it to the Christmas brings the holiday fun of decorating throughout the season rather than having one big tree decorating event. Since we’ve loaded the tree with geeky decorations (the Death Star is our tree topper) it doesn’t feel overtly Christmasy, so we’re likely going to leave it up until February this year.

Try New Recipes

I’ve been on a blue corn kick lately and decided to make blue cornbread for Thanksgiving tomorrow! Not only does the cornbread have a gorgeous blue hue, the depth of flavor is complex, earthy, and nutty.

I like using my Stargazer cast iron skillet because it bakes it consistently and evenly throughout. Plus, it’s a beautiful presentation. Be sure to season your cast iron skillet beforehand, and preheat it in the oven before baking.

I’ve tried this recipe twice — once with a 1/2 regular flour and 1/2 blue corn flour in addition to the blue corn cornmeal I got from Castle Valley Mill. It’s delicious, but blue corn flour tends to add a lot of flavor and a lot of color. My cornbread was almost a midnight sky blue! My second batch I only added 1 tablespoon of blue corn flour for added color and it turned out beautiful and also a lot fluffier. I’ve come to learn that blue corn flour tends to be quite wet when you add liquid ingredients, so watch the hydration of your batter when you’re working with it.

The rule of blue corn flour — a little goes a long long way. It’s not as blue as I would like, so maybe next time I’ll up the blue corn flour to 1/4 cup and use 3/4 cup of the regular flour.

Blue Cornbread


- 1 cup flour (experiment with proportions of regular flour and blue corn flour to your liking)

- 1 cup of blue cornmeal

- 1/2 cup of sugar

- 1 teaspoon of salt

- 3 teaspoons of baking powder

- 1 egg

- 1 cup of milk

- 1/3 cup of olive oil (or vegetable oil)


1.) Preheat oven to 400°F. Preheat seasoned cast iron skillet in the oven.

2.) In a mixing bowl, mix together your dry ingredients. Then, slowly stir in wet ingredients until the batter is consistent.

3.) Carefully take preheated cast iron skillet out of the oven. Pour batter into the cast iron skillet, and return to cast iron skillet to the preheated oven.

4.) Bake at 400°F for about 20 minutes.

I hope this gives you some ideas on fun ways to celebrate this wonky Thanksgiving. If you’ve got new traditions that you’re kicking off this year, let me know in the comments below!

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Kae Lani Palmisano is the Emmy nominated host of WHYY's Check, Please! Philly, a television show that spotlights restaurants throughout the Philadelphia region. She also hosts and helps write Delishtory on WHYY, a digital series that dives into the history of foods we love. Kae Lani is also a food and travel writer who enjoys exploring the history and culture of cuisine.