Staff Picks: Thanksgiving Meals, Memories, and Traditions

Photo by Sonyakamoz | Dreamstime

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches and we scramble to assemble recipes, plan travel routes, and find our nicest elastic waistbands, the staff at the American Humanist Association reminisce about our favorite memories, traditions, and, of course, dishes.

What are your most cherished Thanksgiving traditions and recipes? Let us know in the comments below!

My favorite Thanksgiving tradition is, funnily enough, The Midday Nap. My family is rather large, meaning we have two full Thanksgiving meals, one on my dad’s side of the family for lunch and one on my mom’s for dinner. That’s way too much food within one 8-hour period. So, between meals, my family goes home, everyone picks a couch, bed, or spot on the floor, and we all take turkey-induced naps.

I love all of our Thanksgiving traditions, but thinking about my family taking our short but very necessary nap altogether, falling asleep while recapping whatever family drama happened at lunch, always makes me laugh.

—Kate Uesugi, Communications Coordinator


Growing up, Thanksgiving usually meant spending time with my father’s family on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. In addition to the standard all-American menu, my grandmother would always add in Swedish-inspired sides and desserts, like Swedish meatballs and Swedish apple pie.

These days, my partner and I both live far from our families and flatly refuse to travel on Thanksgiving (even in pre-pandemic times). We look at the holiday as an opportunity to try out wild new recipes that catch our eyes. Last year we made a roast chicken with a Nahm Jim Jaew dipping sauce and a 5-Spice Apple & Ginger Crumble. Who knows what this year will bring! (Other than relaxing on my own couch in my own house, of course.)

—Peter Bjork, Managing Editor & Web Content Manager


My favorite holiday treat is monkey bread. It goes by many names (we called it “monkey brains” when I was a kid) and can be sweet or savory. My aunt usually prepares it for Thanksgiving and I appreciated it even more when I learned how much work it takes preparing each ball of dough before assembling them together.

—Emily Newman, Senior Education Coordinator


The voyage home for Thanksgiving is always interesting, but when the crew all gathers it’s the honey-roasted butternut squash with feta and cranberries that wins the prize for second-helpings. Pictured here is the infamous land-canoe voyage of 2019–made it home just in time for snow and turkey!

*NOTE: This was actually Thanksgiving 2019 in my backyard.

—Kristin Wintermute, Director of Education


It’s the one day a year that there is a bowl of black olives on the table, which is a big moment for me.

—Rachel Deitch, Director of Policy and Social Justice


My favorite Thanksgiving dish would have to be sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. I spent my first thanksgiving in Virginia a couple of years ago and had never heard of such a dish. It’s basically a desert but it compliments turkey so well that it was to my surprise, my favorite part of the meal!

—Margie Delao, Policy and Social Justice Coordinator


Before the pandemic, each year I’d spend the weekend volunteering at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary’s Thanksgiving WITH the Turkeys. The event is a large-scale vegan potluck that emphasizes ethical food consumption and community, and turkeys are the guests of honor. I celebrate Thanksgiving Day with my family eating pumpkin bread (a family favorite) and playing games. My mom started the games when my sisters, cousins, and I were kids as a way to keep us busy and entertained, and since then has become a treasured, and extremely competitive, part of our Thanksgiving tradition.

—Meredith Thompson, Development Manager


My favorite holiday dishes come at the start of our holiday meal. One is a tradition that my family started when I was a child: my father makes an Italian-American antipasto platter of cheeses, meats, olives, anchovies and jardinière (jarred, pickled vegetables) that we serve as an hors d’oeuvres. The other is a newer tradition that my sister began when she started hosting our Thanksgiving meal as an adult: homemade butternut squash soup, served as an appetizer. The best part is that she makes a huge pot of it, so we can eat it for days after the holiday. With those two traditions, along with green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce, I’m happy to skip the turkey.

—Nicole Carr, Deputy Director