The Thanks We Give Each Year

The Thanks We Give Each Year

Whether it’s turkey or ham, cranberry jelly or sauce, stuffing or mashed potatoes, everyone has their Thanksgiving traditions. Each year families come together to celebrate the wonderful lives they’re sharing together, appreciate the good fortune they’ve had, and openly thank each other for one reason or another. Usually each year, Thanksgiving is filled with both a nervous rush to get dinners cooked on time and an excitement to see family or friends they haven’t seen in a while.

Although each family has their traditions – whether passed down for generations or new traditions created for a newly formed family – one thing is constant: the thanks we give each year. This year, we wanted to share with you some of what our staff does for their traditions.


My wife and I created a tradition of our own where we take our children to Train Town to have fun and take photos in the same firetruck. Seeing the kids grow over time while being able to come back to one of our favorite mini amusement parks is something we look forward to all year long.


This is our first Thanksgiving in our new home and I want to make it memorable for my kids. My husband and I have a big family so we always split up the holidays and spend some time with both sides. It leaves us with little time to do much else. This year I am going to start a new tradition for our family where we will wake up and I will be cooking a big relaxing breakfast. I’m going to have us look back on the year and think about what we are grateful for, good and bad, and put it in writing and we will be sharing it at breakfast. I plan to start saving our note cards and throughout the years look back on them on Thanksgiving.


Our family gets together and eats dinner in our big workshop since there’s a minimum 30 people who come each year. We go around and say something we are thankful for, we spend time cooking together, my husband or brother-in-law smoke our turkey and ham, and we do a big potluck where family members each pitch in a dish. Our Thanksgiving is also typically followed by the first race of the winter kart racing series, but this year that race happened earlier in November. Some of the traditions that have been continued through the generations include my grandmother’s creamed spinach recipe and my husband’s mother’s green bean casserole.


We have a very traditional Thanksgiving in regards to food. We cook turkey and the usual sides. We try and have as much family as possible at my house for the meal. Anyone local usually makes it and we will usually try and fly one of my fiancé’s parents in from Florida and hope that my sister and her large family can make it from Montana. We also invite any friends that aren’t near family and are looking for a place to go because we always try and make them feel like family, too. It always turns out really well.

One additional tradition I started with my daughters years ago is to bring turkeys to the homeless shelter on 6th Street in Santa Rosa. We usually go to the store to buy our turkey and then buy an extra one for each of us to give. It started with just the three of us bringing three turkeys to the shelter, and now it has extended to include my fiancé and her daughter. Last year we carried in 5 turkeys to the shelter. They are always very thankful and surprised as we walk in to donate. This year my soon-to-be mother-in-law will be in town and is planning to join us in that tradition. I feel it is the least we can do. It provides food for so many people and teaches our children that it is important to think of others as often as possible.


The Harlins generally enjoy a pretty traditional Thanksgiving with lots of family, noise, fun, and food!

Although, last year, Rachel and her husband had no kids at home, so they decided to try and smoke a turkey for the first time. They did some research and learned that the turkey could take 13-15 long hours to smoke. So, on Thanksgiving morning, they got up super early (2am) in order to start the charcoal and put the turkey on the smoker. Then they went back to the comforts and warmth of their bed. The plan was to have dinner between 3pm and 5pm, but as the smoker was a relatively new fixture at the Harlin home, there were some unknowns and unexplored aspects of the smoker that still needed to be ironed out, such as: How hot does the smoker really stay once it’s up to temperature? And how long do things really take to cook all the way through?

By 7:30am, the turkey was done to perfection and ready to eat! Slightly panicked and still tired, Rachel scrambled to make the rest of their glorious and traditional dinner (on a much smaller scale due to the lack of children). And so, their Thanksgiving meal was several hours earlier than planned (think ‘Thanksgiving Lunch’!). This year, all eight girls will be home, and Rachel plans to once again put on a large traditional Thanksgiving dinner. They are going to smoke a turkey again, but this year, they plan to sleep in!