Thanksgiving: 50 states, 50 traditions

By Tom Stephens

Tom Stephens

Tom Stephens

While Thanksgiving was made a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln over 150 years ago, over time each state has come up with its own way to mark the holiday where thanks are given for the blessings received during the past year. Below is a list of how the several states celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in their own unique way.

Alabama – It’s Thursday? Just two more days until ‘Bama plays (insert this week’s least favorite college football team here)! Roll Tide! Pass the gravy.

Alaska- Eating turkey is considered too effete and ‘lower-48’ for most Alaskans, giving rise to the Last Frontier’s Thanksgiving tradition of marmot-stuffed moose entrails, a diminutive of the Scottish delicacy haggis, if that’s even possible. Alaska is not for the faint of stomach.

Arizona – Thankful for the huge influence of Mexican cuisine on the ‘traditional’ American Thanksgiving Day dinner. Five words: Turkey enchiladas in white sauce.

Arkansas – Visitors should not be alarmed if they hear the occasional “SOOOOOO-EE PIG!” at odd and inappropriate times. Research has shown the people of Arkansas to be among the friendliest in the nation, but most have an allegiance to what is known locally as a Razorback, a thin-bodied wild pig with a mohawk down its back and a famously ill temper. See also: Alabama.

California – If one simply must eat meat, no matter how un-PC that is, at least choose a turkey that has been given proper treatment prior to being served up to your uncle who has been ‘out of town’ for the last five to seven years. Select a free-range animal, one that received stress counseling, job training, and aroma therapy prior to being shrink-wrapped and stacked your freezer. It’s about respect.

Colorado – Over the hill and to grandma’s house is always a tricky proposition in the Rocky Mountain State, as said hill may be sunny and 60 at the base and under six feet of snow at the pass at the same time. Pack the thermals, this may take awhile.

Connecticut – Celebrating yet another year of lording it over one of two states in the Union that is smaller than the Nutmeg State, next-door neighbor Rhode Island. The other, Delaware, couldn’t care less. See below.

Delaware – Somewhat aware that there may actually be other states in the Union. Considers serving turkey as ‘quaint’, as only a Blue Hen State resident can. Soft-shells on the house.

Florida – The only state in the Union where the average citizen is old enough to remember the first Thanksgiving. Pureed green beans for everybody! See also: Ohio.

Georgia – Most of the day is spent teaching out-of-state visitors the correct pronunciation of the home of Peach State residents, that being “JAW-ja”, usually followed by a emphatic statement about the well-being of a certain set of canines, as in “How ‘bout them ’Dawgs!” Note that this is not a question.

Hawaii – Uh, this is Hawaii. Everyday is Thanksgiving.

Idaho – If you want turkey on Thanksgiving in the Gem State, you better bag it yourself. Otherwise, it’s Big Macs all around.

Illinois – As benefiting the home state of President Lincoln, the gentle and forgiving man who first formalized the Thanksgiving holiday while this nation was involved in a monstrous, fratricidal fight for its very existence, mattresses and big screens will be on sale, until 11 p.m. at some locations.

Indiana – Don’t ask. Seriously.

Iowa – Thanksgiving in Iowa generally means that the crazy uncle sitting at the kids table is quite possibly the next Republican presidential candidate.

Kansas – “Are you kidding me, ref? That was a foul ALL THE WAY! What, did you bet against the Jayhawks again? Is that kid your favorite nephew? You just hate the Jayhawks, you’re terrible. You shouldn’t even being doing pee-wee basketball games. That last call was criminal. Pathetic.”

Kentucky – See Kansas. Insert “Wildcats” for every Jayhawks reference.

Louisiana – Home of the Turducken, where duck-meets-chicken-meets-turkey, all in one package. Depending on where you happen to be giving thanks in the Pelican State, any one of million other things may get crammed in there too, from crawfish to black truffles. Maybe both.

Maine – “Turkey? Sure. Why not? Really? Turkey? Riiiiight. Gimme a three-pounder to start and keep ‘em comin’ until I grow claws.” Thanks is given for the man who first said “You know what? I’m gonna try and eat that lobster thingy.”

Maryland – We really, really try to work some turkey in one of the meals, honest, but…we’re on Chesapeake Bay, man. Our oyster dressing is on the half-shell.

Massachusetts – Pilgrims. Plymouth Rock. The First Thanksgiving. Hub of the Universe. When it comes to Thanksgiving, everybody runs a distant second to the Bay State.

Michigan – After an early afternoon meal marked by brotherhood and fellowship, family and friends are invited gather around the big screen to throw chewed drumsticks, bread rolls, and furniture at the TV while the Detroit Lions lose yet another Thanksgiving Day football game.

Minnesota – No one is really quite sure what goes on in Minnesota, but that’s pretty much all year around, so…

Mississippi – Every American should spend at least one Thanksgiving in the Magnolia State for one reason: Pecan pie. The state contains about three million souls and two million recipes for pecan pie, all of them good, most of them heavenly. If you’re going to be known for something, you could do worse than world-class pecan pie.

Missouri – Thanksgiving meals in the Show-Me State come in two varieties, St. Louis barbecue and Kansas City barbecue, and hey, if some turkey happens to make it into the smoker, we can live with that.

Montana – You like the white meat, do you? Meat in the Big Sky comes in one color, that being red. You want a turkey breast, move to Cleveland.

Nebraska – Nebraskans generally spend Thanksgiving weekend making Memorial Stadium in Lincoln the third most populous ‘city’ in the state. The ‘Huskers will rise again.

Nevada – Easily the most pious state when it comes to giving thanks, especially from those who hit the straight flush in Caribbean Stud or made eight passes on the craps table.

New Hampshire – State with the highest percentage of residents who leave the state for the Thanksgiving holiday, mostly to miss having to shake hands and talk about milk prices with presidential candidates. Like they’re going to listen, anyhow.

New Jersey – Two hour drive to Aunt Clara’s for appetizers, then a short one-hour jaunt down the freeway to Mom’s for turkey and fixings, then over to Bennie’s for aperitifs. Things really get crazy after noon.

New Mexico – Entire state thankful for the fact that on any given day may appear in the Land of Enchantment the most beautiful sunset. Ever.

New York – Gives a chance for anyone who thinks “upstate” is north of 135th Street to go up-country and happily pay New York City prices for a tough turkey breast that comes with the view of a tree. Two drink minimum.

North Carolina – The Tarheel State has been known as a veil of humility between two mountains of pride. Now THAT is something for which to be thankful.

North Dakota – Thankful for the fact that the dangerous, highly-unstable state full of hot-blooded reactionary lunatics directly to the south will never, ever come first in the dictionary.

Ohio – No Thanksgiving meal in Ohio is complete without a dish known locally as ‘green bean casserole’ – a concoction of canned green beans (surprisingly enough), canned cream of mushroom soup, and canned french-fried onions, no doubt made popular by the utter lack of cooking skills needed to prepare the faux delicacy – dump, stir, bake. Usually enjoyed by just one person, meaning that the leftovers of the same casserole become a science project in the recesses of a Buckeye State refrigerator until the following November, when the process begins anew. As this is being written, the cure for the common cold is sitting on the bottom shelf of a ‘fridge in Mercer County.

Oklahoma – Oklahoma City is the only state capitol with an operational oil well on the grounds of the Statehouse. Sooners are thankful that if an energy crisis hits, their capitol will be well supplied with crude oil and hot air.

Oregon – Thankful that most of the hippies moved north to Washington.

Pennsylvania – Home of shoo-fly pie. And cheesesteaks. Now we’re talking Thanksgiving.

Rhode Island – Thanks is given for marking yet another year that the Ocean State was not overshadowed by the accomplishments of its much bigger next-door neighbor Connecticut.

South Carolina – In a state that was once described as too small to be a nation and too large to be an insane asylum, Palmetto State residents tend to mix turkey, fixings, and fireworks, making for pretty lousy meals, but really great parties. Stick around for the grand finale when a turkey carcass is fired into orbit with the assist of 15,000 bottle rockets.

South Dakota – We have Mount Rushmore. We have the only state capital that is pronounced with a single syllable. But the Cohen brothers picked Fargo to make that great movie. Sure we had North by Northwest, but that was 60 years ago. Ethan, Joel, sweethearts, would it have killed you to make your movie in Sioux Falls? But, hey, we’re over it and are thankful for what we have. (J.J. Abrams would have done a better job. Just saying.)

Tennessee – One hundred years ago, after the Thanksgiving meal, families would pull out everything from stand-up basses to five-string mandolins and start making music. Pretty much the same thing goes on today.

Texas – Everything is bigger in Texas. There is a story that a visitor to the Lone Star State once asked for a wing during a Thanksgiving dinner and was given a piece that took both hands to get onto the plate. Embarrassed and no doubt wondering what kind of bird came with a six-pound wing, he asked for a smaller piece. His host said “Son, we could get you a smaller one, but we just don’t feel right about shooting sparrows ‘round here.” Bring an appetite.

Utah – If you miss out on the turkey and dressing because the slopes have three-feet of fresh powder, so be it.

Vermont – Not quite sure what all the hoopla is about, but thankful to take the nine-days off (with pay) that goes with the holiday.

Virginia – Four centuries have passed, but there are those in the Commonwealth who consider the Pilgrims latecomers by over a decade. Plus they missed their mark by about 400 miles. Rookies.

Washington – Everybody is pretty cool about it.

West Virginia – Wet, wild, and wonderful West Virginia may be the only state save Colorado where a late weekend in November may subject higher-elevation residents to 70 degrees at noon and 18 inches of wet snow by midnight. It was here that the notion for a four-day holiday was born.

Wisconsin – Badger State residents are thankful to serve turkey for Thanksgiving for the traditional meal as the bird just happens to go together perfectly with the three most popular food items in Wisconsin: Beer, cheese, and beer. Shoving a beer can in a turkey prior to deep-frying the bird was first practiced in Wisconsin. It has since been shown that this is an excellent method to facilitate the deep-frying of a turkey. But that is not why it was practiced in the first place. They were just stuffing turkeys with beer cans.

Wyoming – Both last alphabetically and the least populous state in the Union, residents of the Cowboy State are quite thankful that the Framers saw to it that while Wyoming may get dwarfed by certain states on the left and right coasts in the House of Representatives, those same giant states get the exact same number of seats as does Wyoming in the U.S. Senate: Two. May God bless America.

Tom Stephens Stephens

By Tom Stephens

Tom Stephens is a resident of western Logan County and a regular contributor to this website.

Tom Stephens is a resident of western Logan County and a regular contributor to this website.