When we asked what made your Thanksgiving holiday special, we loved poring through your responses! What you love about your Thanksgiving celebrations is the . . .

Whether you serve the same menu every year (like Amanda N.) or you like to change it up and try new things (like Rebecca B.), food is a big part of Thanksgiving celebrations.

Cassie R. keeps it simple these days as “…my hubby is in charge of the turkey (which he grills and it’s amazing). I’m in charge of everything else! I simplify it by only having mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, sweet potato casserole and then some sort of pumpkin dessert. But the best part is, we make homemade ice cream and top whatever dessert we have with it. It is sooooooo yummy.” We bet it is!

Louise H. told us her dad’s turkey and bread stuffing used to be the thing that made the holiday special, but these days it’s “being with family and/or friends for time together, and time off from work for a few days’ rest.”

For several years BELONG Staffer Susan drove to a deserted parking lot early on Thanksgiving morning for a food exchange. With plenty of giggles about how shady this transaction must look, car trunks were opened and a batch of homemade rolls was exchanged for a fresh apple cake. (We’re sharing the cake recipe below for you to make, enjoy, and share.)

Like many families, Jen R.’s table sports custom-made child-crafted place cards sure to make any guest feel special.


Others—like Sydney C.’s family—eat their Thanksgiving dinner at a table lit by the glow of a fully-decorated Christmas tree. (Some people just can’t wait.)

Friends & Family
A number of celebrations include both, but a fun trend popping up has people (like Kayla S.) gathering for a “Friendsgiving” party, usually before or after the official holiday.

When it’s difficult to get everyone together for the holidays, Elayne P.’s family found a solution. “Many years ago, after all of my siblings left our parents’ nest, we each had our own families…with everyone spread out across the country. To remedy that, we created, what is now a long standing tradition we like to call ‘Thanksmas.’”

“We get together at Thanksgiving time to celebrate all that we are thankful for and incorporate a Christmas gift exchange for the kids so we all get the best of both worlds. We have run the full gambit of creating great memories at Thanksmas time from rotating houses, so it doesn’t fall on one person every year, to playing hard core football, basketball, charade and Pictionary games (boys vs. girls, of course). We have also tried divvying up the cooking responsibilities amongst everyone, ornament exchanges and good ‘ol dance marathons from the grandparents on down to the toddlers— simply the best!”

“This special tradition has allowed us to celebrate the holidays together but also has given us all the flexibility to spend time with our own individual families at Christmas time to create those all-important family holiday traditions with our own families.”

However you choose to celebrate the holiday, we really resonate with Elayne’s parting thought: that Thanksgiving (or Friendsgiving, or Thanksmas) “has never been about whether it is fancy or casual.  All that matters is that we all take time to get together . . . .”

Happy Thanksgiving!


From Susan Ellingburg’s Kitchen

1 cup Sugar

¼ cup Shortening

1 Egg, beaten

1 cup Flour

1 tsp Baking Soda

1 cup Nuts (your choice: walnuts, pecans, whatever)

1 tsp Cinnamon

¼ tsp Nutmeg

¼ tsp Salt

2 cups peeled, chopped raw Apples

½ cup Raisins or Dates*

Cream shortening and sugar together. Add beaten egg. Sift dry ingredients together and add to shortening/sugar mixture. Beat well. Add fruits and nuts. Mix well.**

Pour in a 9 x 9 cake pan. Bake in 350-degree oven for 45 minutes.

This cake is yummier the second day—though it rarely lasts that long.

*I like to soak the raisins overnight (or at least for a couple of hours) to plump them up. You can use any beverage of your choice. It’s certainly not required, but I think it makes a difference in the ultimate flavor and texture.
**When you mix in the fruits and nuts you may get the uneasy feeling that there’s not enough batter to go around. Keep the faith and keep mixing. The juice from the apple pieces will help, and you’ll wind up with a fruit-and-nut-filled treat with just enough cake to hold it all together.