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Untraditional Traditions: Ramapo’s Thanksgiving Day Celebrations

A classic table setting of Thanksgiving Day food.
A classic table setting of Thanksgiving Day food.

From waking up early to see your favorite cartoon character balloons in the televised Thanksgiving Day Parade to enjoying a special homemade dinner, there are various ways to celebrate the holiday of gratitude with your family. Though Thanksgiving is most known as a time for family, food, and thankfulness, everyone celebrates in their own way.

Mrs. Sibilia, a history teacher at Ramapo, explains her way of celebrating: “In my home, we have merged traditional American Thanksgiving with Latin Thanksgiving or Dia de Accion de Gracias. In the morning, while all the cooking and baking is getting done, we watch the Thanksgiving day parade and we love to see Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus at the end of the parade. But the rest of the day is infused with a festive atmosphere of eating great food (empanadas, chorizo stuffing, pastelon), Spanish dancing, and a late family dinner around 6:00 p.m. with family and friends. It really is the best holiday!” Not only does Mrs. Sibilia celebrate the American aspect of the holiday, but she and her family incorporate a part of their Latin roots to make it their own.

Similarly, Keira Duffy, a junior at Ramapo, brings her Italian customs to the table. “Every year my family hosts Thanksgiving and my dad cooks a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, amongst other popular Thanksgiving dishes. Although I love all of that, my favorite part of the meal is dessert. We have an assortment of Italian pastries like tiramisu and almond cookies.”

Ramapo’s students and staff personalize the holiday not only through the inclusion of their cultures, but also through their discussions at the dinner table. For example, Lea Bogwald, a sophomore at Ramapo, describes her family’s experience each year: “During Thanksgiving, my family mainly debates the positive and negative aspects of the holiday, especially when it comes to colonization.” Taking a more historical approach, Lea and her family enjoy the holiday with an amicable discussion of the holiday’s roots.

Mrs. Manzo, a teacher in Ramapo’s English department, describes her family’s classic practice: “The night before Thanksgiving, I always make homemade cranberry sauce, a Kahl family tradition that I introduced to the Manzo dinner several years ago. Thanksgiving morning is for watching the parade. We usually record it on our DVR so that we can sleep in a bit and then fast forward through all the commercials! Then we get together with the other Manzos for an early dinner with delicious food that everyone helps make. The kids love grandma’s sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top!” Mrs. Manzo emphasizes the importance of family during this holiday and offers a great tip: pre-recording the parade, a perfect solution for catching up on sleep without missing out on a widely cherished holiday tradition!

Brielle Santala, a junior at Ramapo, speaks of her traditions: “Every year for Thanksgiving we go to my aunt’s house. We talk about a lot of things, I’m usually asked about school and my extra circulars… There are always holiday-themed balloons! Along with your classic Thanksgiving foods, we always have eggplant parmesan and seafood salad, which you might not see at your usual dinner. After dinner, we play a lot of card games, Jenga, and Scattergories.” Brielle and her family take a fun spin on the holiday with games, balloons, and unique foods!

Coach Vanhook, gym teacher and girl’s and boy’s volleyball coach, considers his Thanksgiving to be “pretty boring.” However, if you’re a football fan, this might be the tradition for you! He recounts, “We watch football pretty much all day and night. One thing I always do is watch lots of the parade because I remember my late grandmother watched it every year and then asked if I watched it! Like everyone else, I eat way too much and then eat as many calories in dessert! I love pumpkin, blueberry, and apple pies. And yes, I will have a slice of each!”

Thanksgiving is an inclusive holiday, integrating many cultures with one traditional American day. Whether celebrated with exciting new foods, treasured activities, or intellectual discussions, Thanksgiving is undeniably one of the most anticipated holidays by Ramapo’s students and staff.

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