Untraditional Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays filled with mostly predictable traditions: Finish off the cranberry sauce. Watch football. Indulge in a post-dinner catnap.

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MEGHAN BARR (Associated Press Writer)

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays filled with mostly predictable traditions: Finish off the cranberry sauce. Watch football. Indulge in a post-dinner catnap.

Some families, however, spice things up with their own - often unusual - turkey-related rituals. Here, some of the more offbeat ways to give thanks:



The bird was on its way into the oven, but it left quite a legacy behind on the kitchen table.

"I think we called it William Sturdevant. Which is a name we just made up," says Linda Miller, of Nashville, whose three daughters - now grown - always christened each Thanksgiving turkey before cooking it. "It sounded pilgrim-like."

Ricky Ricardo, Sgt. Pepper, Diego: The list of turkey names lengthened as the years passed. Miller says the tradition began when she was trying to keep her children occupied as they helped her cook the holiday feast. They'd draft letters to the turkey about its personal history, she says, including prior bird-like romances.

"You sit there going, and we're going to eat this? After knowing all these characteristics about this personified turkey?" Miller says. "But then it would smell so good that they would say, yes, we're gonna eat it. Typically, ruthless children, in the end, eating their creation."



In the Fonzo household, the Thanksgiving turkey is reincarnated every year in various celebrity forms. Think Marge Simpson. Rocky Balboa. Sponge Bob Square Pants. Once, even Donald Trump made the cut. Then that turkey takes the stage.

"It's hard to explain to people, but you know, the turkey's perfect because it has arms and legs, and you can actually prop it up and make it do a little dance," explains Jessica Fonzo, 36, of New York City, who grew up with the "turkey dance" tradition: Dressing the fowl (literally) and dancing it across the countertop, accompanied by music. "It takes hours of preparation for three minutes of entertainment," she says.

The turkey invoked Janet Jackson in November 2004, the year of her infamous "wardrobe malfunction" with Justin Timberlake at the Super Bowl.

"We sewed this whole little brassiere thing on the turkey and at the end we ripped it off," Fonzo explains.



As children's book author Lisa Suhay would tell you, ham is the new turkey.

"We just want equal time," says Suhay, of Norfolk, Virginia, who penned the upcoming book, "Pardon Me. It's Ham, Not Turkey." "We're not saying, don't pardon a turkey. We're just saying, what's fair is fair."

Suhay is leading the charge at, where at least 6,000 people have signed on to request that President Bush add a hog to the traditional White House Thanksgiving turkey pardon. They claim the first Thanksgiving actually took place in Berkeley, Va., two years before the 1621 festivities at Plymouth Rock. At this meal, Suhay says, the settlers ate ham, not turkey.

"There's always relatives looking over your shoulder saying, (the turkey) is too dry," Suhay says, in defense of the hog. "And there's all that clean-up afterwards. Ham is so goof-proof."



Sometimes all that basting and roasting leaves families in need of a little fresh air. According to journalist Meg Cox, author of "The Book of New Family Traditions," one family she interviewed throws a makeshift "turkey parade" before they sit down to eat.

"They put the cooked turkey on a pretty platter and go out with the dinner and parade around their street," says Cox. "They have pots and pans and things to bang, and they shout, 'Happy Thanksgiving, happy turkey day.'"

Cox says the "parade" helps relieve built-up tension from the day's preparations.

"They just wanted to be silly and let off steam," she says.



Meet three turkeys sittin' in a coop: Karma, Cloud and Butterfly. Unlike most of their feathered brethren, these ladies won't meet their demise for Thanksgiving Day. Instead they'll be shoveling pumpkin pie into their beaks just like the rest of us.

"It's about having the turkeys there with you, celebrating with you, instead of being the focus as the main dish," says Jennifer Pappas, of Newfield, New York She adopted her birds last year from Farm Sanctuary, a rescue and advocacy group that runs an adopt-a-turkey program among other things.

"I never knew just how amazing turkeys are and what big personalities they have," she says. "They bond to you just like dogs or cats do."

Pappas, who is a vegan, says the turkeys get pie all over their faces and also dine on cranberries and grapes.

"Thanksgiving to me just means family and honoring family, and spending time together," she says. "These birds are part of my family, so I would never eat one of my family members."

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