Thanksgiving Traditions: A Celebration of Family and Food

Turkey and Ham
Carved ham and turkey, dressing, gravy and other covered dishes make a feast-worthy Thanksgiving buffet. 

Growing up, Thanksgiving was always an exciting holiday. Both my parents’ families are large, and each year we would alternate which side to spend it with – the Faulks in Macon (my dad’s family) or the Coopers in Augusta (my mom’s family). No matter where we were, two things were always constant: lots of good food and togetherness. Today, Thanksgiving is much the same, only now I have my husband’s side of the family from Savannah to throw in the mix. It’s safe to say, holiday season around my house means we’re on the road a good bit, but that’s always been the norm for me.

Rebekah’s family gathers in Augusta on Thanksgiving Day.

The host of Thanksgiving, usually one of my aunts and uncles, is responsible for the turkey. All the other relatives bring side dishes and dessert, and there’s enough food to feed an army.

Rebekah with her Uncle Bimbo on the family farm in Middle Georgia, Thanksgiving Day 2013.

One year, my Uncle Tommy and Aunt Susan made two turkeys – one was roasted in the oven and the other was deep fried. That was memorable. I recall liking the roasted turkey best for its moist meat and pretty browned skin.

Aunts, uncles and cousins gather ’round the living room after eating Thanksgiving lunch in Middle Georgia. 

After so many years of eating together, certain family members have become known for making a signature dish. For my mom, it’s her sweet potato casserole with a pecan topping that’s always a hit. My Aunt Susan makes a mean mac and cheese and wonderful cold grape salad with cream cheese and brown sugar. My Aunt Kathy’s biscuits and her coconut cake don’t last at the table long, and Grandma Dot’s pound cake shines among all the pumpkin and pecan pies. I come from a long line of good cooks.

Always save room for the dessert table at Thanksgiving!
Food at Thanksgiving
Side dishes wait to be devoured.

As for me, I don’t have that one dish that defines me yet. I see Thanksgiving as a blank canvas to create. To be honest, in the beginning of November, I love to flip through the pages of Southern Living or Taste of Home magazines and discover those recipes that make for a delicious and standout presentation. I will often make an ambitious dessert that’s on the front cover of the magazine, and I always bring an unpredictable side dish that adds interest to the menu. With all the heavy casseroles there, I like to think outside the box and liven up palates with something fresh. The moment when you arrive to the party with your masterpiece in hand, everyone buzzing about asking what you brought, makes for a fun entrance.

Cranberry-Apple Pumpkin Bundt Cake
Southern Living’s Cranberry-Apple Pumpkin Bundt Cake

In recent years, I’ve made a pumpkin cheesecake, cranberry-apple pumpkin bundt cake, a pumpkin spice cake with chocolate pecan filling and a rustic dried cranberry and granny smith apple tart. My must-have side dishes on Thanksgiving include roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon and Parmesan cheese and that good old fashioned pineapple and Ritz cracker casserole that I look forward to eating so much.

The start of something beautiful: Pineapple Ritz Cracker Casserole.

It also wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without canned cranberry sauce. In many ways, I like to be adventurous but at the same time, I’m a die-hard purest about other things. Canned cranberry sauce is one of those things. And yes, I’ve made it from scratch with fresh cranberries and orange peel.

Fresh cranberry sauce just doesn’t do it for me. The canned cranberry sauce, little ridges and all, is the only suitable accompaniment topping my turkey.

Cranberry Sauce
Canned cranberry sauce is proudly displayed in a pretty leaf bowl.

This year and every day, my heart is grateful. Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours.

What are your Thanksgiving traditions? Fried turkey or roasted? Canned cranberry sauce or fresh? Tell me your favorite side dishes! Tag your photos #SKGThanksgiving to share them with me on social media.

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Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a freelance writer, entertainer and food enthusiast who writes and speaks about her love of good food and the Coastal South. A Season 2 Contestant on ABC’s “The Taste,” she is the Statesboro Herald food columnist and host of SKG-TV on YouTube. A public relations graduate of Georgia Southern University, Rebekah also attended Savannah Technical College’s Culinary Institute of Savannah. To learn more, connect with Some Kinda Good on social media, or visit


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