Turkey and Memories
Showing our gratitude.


We asked National Review Online contributors to share their favorite Thanksgiving recipes, memories, and traditions.

Michael Auslin
Since I come from a small family, Thanksgiving was one of only two times a year we really gathered as an extended group (the other being Passover). I remember feeling a sense of security knowing that there were other people, beyond the immediate members I saw every day, that could be a part of my family’s life. In addition, by Thanksgiving time, Chicago was usually fairly chilly, often blustery, with bare trees. So there was a particular sense of warmth inside whichever house we had gathered at, the first time in the season I was really aware of appreciating coming in from playing outside in the cold.

Michael Auslin is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. 

My favorite Thanksgiving tradition is something that, in light of recent controversies over football mascots and Halloween costumes, may land my family on the politically incorrect hot seat. Every year, the littlest of our six kids always greet our guests at the door dressed up as Pilgrims and Indians. Inevitably, the opportunity to wear face paint and feathers, strap baby dolls to their backs papoose-style, and cause a ruckus of howling with no reprimands means that my crew is made up largely of Indians and I end up having to talk (or bribe) one of them into wearing the cute pilgrim dress and hat I bought on eBay years ago. One of the things I’ll be thankful for this year is that we still have the freedom in our home to allow our kids to creatively interpret this beautiful, historical holiday free from the buzz-kill lens of victimhood and grievance politics. To be sure, we teach our kids about the history of Thanksgiving and the beauty of a nation that, from it’s very inception, was an experiment in cultures and people learning, albeit at times imperfectly, to live and work together. But that’s no cause to wreck the fun on Thanksgiving Day by burdening them with our current politically correct, cultural obsessions. They’ll have the rest of their adult lives to navigate that terrain. 

— Rachel Campos-Duffy is an author, pundit, and mother of six. She is the national spokesperson for the LIBRE Initiative, an organization that promotes economic liberty, empowerment and opportunity for Hispanics.

Mona Charen

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday for all the usual reasons — the family togetherness, the relaxation, the feeling of unity in the country, and the absolutely brilliant mixture of cranberry sauce with turkey. Counting your blessings is one of the secrets of happiness, or at least contentment, and it’s always gratifying to see the generosity of Americans at this time of year as they ensure that everyone has a feast to enjoy.

Thanksgiving is a favorite for another reason: It’s one of the last American institutions to withstand complete commercialization and trivialization. Sure, you find the occasional plastic turkey — and don’t you detest calling it “Turkey Day”? — as well as some tacky pilgrim costumes. But for the most part the holiday remains what it was intended to be — a joyous occasion to express gratitude for God’s blessings.

Some have attempted to taint the holiday by stressing the misfortune that the arrival of Europeans promised for Native Americans. But my sense is that Thanksgiving has proven remarkably durable. The Wall Street Journal still publishes its “Desolate Wilderness/Fair Land” essays on the struggles of the pilgrims on the editorial page (which I find moving, year in and year out), and the newspapers and TV still feature recipes for homemade pumpkin, apple, and cream pies. When Americans live abroad, this is the day, even more than July 4, that evokes homesickness.

This is America’s day to celebrate the great spiritual virtue of gratitude. You needn’t be religious to observe it with religious ardor.

Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist.

Jim Geraghty
There is an almost otherworldly reassurance when you see your children celebrating a holiday the way you remember doing as a child — watching the “Peanuts” Thanksgiving special or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, throwing a football around in the backyard, or pulling on the turkey’s wishbone.

As you grow up, you put aside childish things, but you still miss them or at least the way they made you feel. And then as a parent, suddenly you’re allowed to enjoy them again by experiencing them through the eyes of your kids.

I’m not playing with toys, honest; I’m spending quality time with my kids.

Jim Geraghty writes The Campaign Spot on National Review Online.