Unveiling the Unconventional: Thanksgiving Traditions at PAHS

Unveiling the Unconventional: Thanksgiving Traditions at PAHS

Emily Wisnesky, Writer

What percent of PAHS do you think watches football on Thanksgiving? 80% or 90%? Surprisingly, only 43% of students and teachers watch the sport over the holidays. There are plenty of traditions that are very common across the school. But what types of unconventional customs do our peers and teachers have that are unique to their families?

In a recent survey, when asked about unique traditions, one student responded that they do a potato peeling contest yearly during Thanksgiving. This is a family tradition that their grandfather has them partake in. Another student says that their mom allows them to open an early Christmas gift over Thanksgiving break.

For some, it is not the food that is special, but how the food is distributed. Many of us pass dishes around the table, waiting eagerly to eat. One student’s family thinks out-of-the-box and has someone wear a pilgrim hat to pass the turkey out. 

There are 46 million turkeys eaten yearly on Thanksgiving in the United States. 93% of pollees said that they eat turkey for Thanksgiving. But what about the remaining 7%? There are, in fact, many alternatives to this main dish. Student Zoey Smith says that her family has fried chicken because it is easier than making a turkey. Taylor Weaver—junior—provides, “My dad doesn’t usually make a turkey on Thanksgiving like most people because ‘everyone else does.’ He makes different things like lasagna or one year we deep fried a turkey.”

Lasagna, as Weaver mentioned, proves to be a typical dish, along with pasta and ravioli. These Italian foods are homemade by many, including Paige Zinzella, biology teacher, who says that her family makes ravioli (as a tradition from her Italian grandmother), as well as student Addyson Neill, whose family cooks their own noodles.

One student reported that they have homemade pagach on Thanksgiving. This flatbread—topped with mashed potatoes, cheese, and onions—is a Slovakian dish, typically eaten during Advent, Lent, and Christmas. We know it as “pierogi pizza.” The student says that their family is not Slovakian, but they make it every year with their grandmother. 

While main dishes are always the focus, everyone knows that the sides are the best part of this holiday. Masie Eberhart, a senior, says, “Cauliflower broccoli salad and homemade applesauce are always a must-have on the menu for me.” Meanwhile, freshman Maggie Guidice and her family enjoy three bean salad for Thanksgiving. 

Sweet potato casserole  is a favorite on many students’ tables. This sugary side—often topped with marshmallows or brown sugar, and pecans—is more of a dessert than a dinner, but nobody complains when it shows up on the table.

As for true desserts, 87% of students have pumpkin pie, showing a clear majority and leaving apple pie trailing behind at 57%. But what are some other confections people make for Thanksgiving that are particular to their family? 

Neiko Burkhalter enjoys pumpkin rolls over the holidays, saying, “My aunt has a ‘secret recipe’ that she uses, making it taste so much more different from normal rolls.” Another student said that Watergate Cake is one of their favorite Thanksgiving desserts. This simple cake has a name dating back to the 1970s. 

Watergate Cake is a popular pistachio-flavored dessert stemming from Watergate Salad. The cake is made from a boxed mix, club soda, and pistachio JELL-O mix, iced with a nutty cool whip frosting. The salad is similar, featuring cool whip, nuts, and JELL-O mix with the addition of marshmallows and pineapple.

These two desserts, originally called “Pistachio Delight” and “Green Fluff,”didn’t obtain their current name until post-1972: after the Watergate scandal. The idea was that the cool whip concealed the ingredients in the salad, just like President Nixon covered up his crime. 

Junior Breanna Delarme says that her family has tiramisu for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is a coffee-flavored Italian dessert, consisting of espresso-soaked ladyfingers and a whipped mixture of egg whites, sugar, mascarpone cheese, and cocoa powder. Ado Campeol, an Italian restaurant owner, is said to be the “father of tiramisu.”

Delarme also enjoys cannoli over the holidays. These tube-like Sicilian pastries are filled with a ricotta cream and can be flavored in a variety of ways. They’re usually dotted with chopped nuts or chocolate chips and dusted with powdered sugar. 

No matter how you celebrate, Thanksgiving is focused around one important principle: expressing gratitude towards the ones you love. From family to food, your traditions are what make the holiday special.