Taking a Look at Traditions

Olivia Myers

Since the first Thanksgiving in 1621, families have drastically transformed the physical celebrations of Thanksgiving by forming new or revising old traditions. Despite Thanksgiving’s status as a national holiday, many families have adopted unique methods for celebration, oftentimes catering to a variety of factors such as geographical location or dietary restrictions. For some, the idea of Thanksgiving may evoke images of a large family gathered around a table laden with classic dishes including turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, but for many, Thanksgiving exhibits a much different scene. Despite these topical variations to Thanksgiving, an undercurrent focused on gratitude and family connect the annual Thanksgiving celebrations that are coming just around the corner. 


Traditions Timeline:

1924: First Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

During the Roaring Twenties, Macy’s, an American department store chain founded in 1958, thrived economically, expanding its flagship headquarters in New York to encompass an entire city block. In celebration of the company’s success and recent financial prosperity, Macy’s threw their first parade on Thanksgiving morning to herald the fast-approaching Christmas season as they hoped to encourage customers to begin their holiday shopping at Macy’s. Since then, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has grown significantly and has become an annual tradition for families across America to watch the impressive display of floats, balloons, and performers march down the streets of New York City. 

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade- 1979


1955: Green Bean Casserole

For many, green bean casserole is a highly controversial Thanksgiving dish that seems to consistently make an appearance on the table, regardless of its questionable popularity. The infamous casserole composed of cream of mushroom soup, green beans, and fried onions made its first debut in a Campbell’s recipe pamphlet created by Dorcas Reilly in 1955, and the dish’s simplicity yet satisfying results caught the eyes and stomachs of families across the nation. To date, Campbell estimates that nearly 40% of its cream of mushroom soup sales are found in these green bean casseroles as the dish has established itself to be tradition. 


1989: Pardoning of the Presidential Turkey

Although President Abraham Lincoln officially pardoned the first turkey, the tradition did not take root until President George W. Bush finally established the turkey’s reprieve from the white house kitchen which his future presidential successors would continue to date. During this humorous yet time-honored ceremony before Thanksgiving, the National Turkey Federation (NTF) presents the president with a turkey that the president then pardons, saving the bird from the White House Chef’s clutches as the bird lives to see another day. 


President Ronald Reagan pardons a turkey at the annual White House ceremony.


Thanksgiving Tradition Spotlights:


In her younger years, Ms. Tyrell, Tumwater High School’s beloved Career Center Specialist, fondly recalls her memorable Thanksgiving Day celebrations that her grandparents annually hosted in her home state of Indiana. For Ms. Tyrell’s family, the Thanksgiving table was always filled with relatives as a result of her grandpa’s 10 siblings, and usually, there were “between 50-60 people in attendance” who all “managed to ‘fit’” regardless of their small house. Each year, her grandma fixed the turkey, leaving the multitude of other family members to bring an array of side dishes and desserts. In classic Indiana fashion, a homemade sugar cream pie always stole the spotlight at the end of the meal, concluding yet another successful Thanksgiving. 


For Annie Uhlmeyer, a senior at THS, Thanksgiving heralds fond memories of “spending time with friends and family.” A traditional Thanksgiving for the Uhlmeyers includes a big family reunion in Idaho hosted by her grandparents and, most importantly, Auntie’s home-made cinnamon rolls which Annie labels as “definitely a go-to for [her] family around Thanksgiving time.” But, when it comes down to Annie’s favorite Thanksgiving dish, she confesses that her “mom’s sweet potato casserole” steals the most space on her plate alongside an annually anticipated “ yummy pretzel jello salad.” Throughout her younger years, Annie enjoyed their family’s Thanksgiving scavenger hunt that her older cousins would organize, and more recently, the honor of planning the scavenger hunt has fallen to her as the tradition holds fast. The Uhlmeyer family ends the full day of food and festivities with a walk together outside, reflecting on and appreciating their multitude of blessings.

The Uhlmeyer family on their Thanksgiving walk.


Regardless of what your Thanksgiving table looks like, let’s embrace the core values of community and gratitude that surround this upcoming national holiday, taking a moment to appreciate our blessings in the midst of a tumultuous year as a THS community. 



Butler, Stephanie. “The Origins of the Mysterious Green Bean Casserole.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 13 Dec. 2013, www.history.com/news/the-origins-of-the-mysterious-gren-bean-casserole. 


Fairchild, Mary. “Stuff Yourself With Thanksgiving Facts and Tasty Trivia.” Learn Religions, 2 Sept. 2019, www.learnreligions.com/thanksgiving-traditions-and-trivia-700756. 


Klein, Christopher. “The First Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 26 Nov. 2014, www.history.com/news/the-first-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade. 

“The Real Story behind the Presidential Turkey Pardon.” National Constitution Center – Constitutioncenter.org, constitutioncenter.org/blog/the-real-story-behind-the-presidential-turkey-pardon.