Food and Rituals – Thanksgiving (US) — The North Star Reports – by Allison Brennhofer. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

Food and Rituals – Thanksgiving (US) — The North Star Reports – by Allison Brennhofer. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal


Thanksgiving with my family was a little different this year. Instead of being held at my grandparent’s house, we had it at my house, which involved us cooking the turkey. Or rather, us putting my grandma on speakerphone while she coached us through the process. Despite the new surroundings for our holiday, we still had the same traditions. Football is huge for my family and I play along the best that I can. We make a ten-by-ten grid on a piece of paper and make boxes out of the grid. Along one axis is one team’s name, and along the other is the competing team. For the life of me I couldn’t tell you who the teams were. Numbers from one to ten are randomly assigned to each box, both down and across the paper. Everyone purchases squares for ten cents each, the usual amount being ten. Then, at each quarter of the game, we check the score and whoever owns the square which lands at the intersection of the last two numbers of the scores (for example, if the score is 17-23, 7 and 3 would be the numbers to find) wins that round.

This year, we started a new tradition that I was more involved in. We had a Texas hold-em tournament, which I wasn’t too sure about until I snagged second place and a $4 cash prize. Games are taken very seriously in my house, and my success amazed my family members because I am known as the one who cannot bluff or lie to save my life.

One of my absolute favorite traditions is making my great-grandma’s cinnamon rolls. She taught me how to make them a few years ago and always insisted that mine were better than hers, which I knew was a lie but appreciated immensely nonetheless. She was one of my favorite people in the world. Unfortunately, she passed away in November of 2013, a month shy of turning 103. It’s been a little hard to make the rolls knowing she won’t be there to eat them, but that’s why I have to keep on making them. Every time I do, I remember her and what an amazing person she was.

Another, newer tradition we’ve been doing is my grandma gives each of us grandchildren $10 and by Christmas, we are supposed to have donated it to some cause that we think deserves it and have a little explanation as to why we did so. I enjoy this new tradition because it reminds me to be grateful for the things I have and for my family every day.

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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our program. We also welcome Duluth East High School and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, projects on historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy The NSR is sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact chief editor Professor Liang at HLIANG (at)


Filed under Allison Brennhofer, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

20 responses to “Food and Rituals – Thanksgiving (US) — The North Star Reports – by Allison Brennhofer. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

  1. Carley Henning

    It was great to read your article because I found myself thinking about my family and the games we play over the holidays and it gets quite competitive! Also, I think it is very generous of you guys to donate $10 to a cause that you think needs it. It just shows how thankful you can be for what you have and give it to others.

  2. Katy Goerke

    It’s nice to see a family that makes the most out of the slightly amorphous holiday, that is Thanksgiving. For purely gluttonous actions which outline the holiday generally leave something more to be desired in the way of quality family time.

  3. Karn Pederstuen

    Thank you for sharing some of your family’s traditions! In my family, the “kids” (the youngest being 17) play games at Thanksgiving as well. It is interesting to hear about the traditions we share.

  4. David Miller

    As I read your article I felt you painted a perfect picture of my family every thanksgiving. I began to laugh as I read because of the similarities between our families in our thanksgiving traditions. I am very sorry to hear about your grandmother passing, but i think the cinnamon rolls you are still making is a wonderful way to remember her.

  5. Kyle Stepka

    As I read your article memories come up and make me laugh from my past holidays with my family. I have a brother who is four years older than me, and he is my best friend in the whole world but he is the one person I want to beat in everything and your story just reminded me of this.

  6. Alex Cole

    I thought the part about the $10 was very cool! Its a great idea and you could get very creative with who you would donate to. We also had thanksgiving at our house this year and we had to call up our grandma on how she made her gravy.

  7. Donovan Chock

    I think its beautiful how your grandmother still lives through you. Not everyone gets to have a connection like you have and I think it’s wonderful how grateful you are. Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful woman. I also love the $10 idea! I also broke tradition this year. Rather than having family dinner at home, we had a community dinner at a local church. The adults cooked, the little kids played and helped clean. Thankfully, as a pianist, I was the days entertainment and didn’t have to clean or anything. 😉

  8. Tyler Winkelman

    I loved reading your article because it just reminded me of my family holidays and traditions. I love being around my family and it just reminded me that how important my family is to me. I am sorry to hear about your great-grandma, because I know how difficult holidays can be when family members pass away.

  9. Hannah Johnson

    I liked reading this article because it brings back memories of all the traditions my family does during the holidays. I think that it is very important to have family traditions like that to bring through the generations and just all have fun together.

  10. Becca

    What fun old and new traditions! I love sticking to my families traditions, but we’ve had to change some as my grandparents (and great grandma) are getting older. It makes me a little sad to do so, but the new ones are generally just as fun.

  11. Bao Vang

    It’s great to see that you have traditions on Thanksgiving. My Thanksgiving is more of just cooking, have families over, and then we all leave. It’s nothing bad because it’s great to see all my families but I do wonder how it would be like if games were held. Thank you for sharing your story!

  12. Camila Garcia

    Reading from your thanksgiving traditions reminds me of home. Every year I ago, new my family and I make new traditions and try new dishes and new ways to interact with each other. We always try to spend our holidays in a way that we can enjoy the little time that we see each other every year.

  13. Chelsey L

    That is awesome you had such a amazing bond with your grandma. I love how you talked about traditions and new ones that is awesome that you guys can do that and are able to share the traditions as well. While reading reminded me of my family traditions.

  14. Kyle Stepka

    Like Alex said above I really liked the 10 dollar thing, it was smart and you could also do a lot with that idea. And with me my grandma is fully Czech and she makes some Czech food that people have never heard off and we get it every year and it is the best part of the Holidays.

  15. This was an intriguing way to celebrate thanksgiving.I have only had 3 or four thanksgivings that were celebrated in a similar fashion. The past 5 thanksgivings I have celebrated have been on the road with my ski team.It is interesting to see the traditions that come about from family to family in regards to thanksgiving. But one element remains the same, coming together as a family to celebrate and give thanks. Sometimes you must celebrate with people that aren’t of blood relation, but nonetheless they are still family in some way.

  16. Thank you for this wonderful article. It is fascinating to see the different traditions different families have for Thanksgiving. As an international student from Ethiopia I had never celebrated Thanksgiving before coming here. For the past three years I have, very kindly, been invited to spend Thanksgiving at my friend’s family’s house. It is a very warm and family oriented holiday (and of course the food is amazing). I do see similarities in the traditions of the family I spent my Thanksgiving with and yours (the football game, dessert traditions, and different games), but there are variations that are specific to each family, which makes them even more special.

  17. Dylan Brovick

    Since Halloween has just ended Thanksgiving is fresh on my mind. Your thanksgiving traditions sound a lot like mine. Every year we usually do Thanksgiving at my house with a lot of family coming over. football is always on and we usually eat during or right after the first game which, causes most of us to fall asleep during the next one. At night time the whole family usually plays some sort of card game together. I really liked the tradition your family has with the ten dollars given by your grandma, that is a nice and easy thing to do.

  18. Hannes Stenström

    Thank you for this article about your family’s Thanksgiving traditions! As a Swede, I always find it interesting to read about Thanksgiving and how important it is for American families as we don’t have any similar tradition in Sweden. It sounds like a very creative game that you’ve come up with involving the football scores! Just like you, I would feel more comfortable with Texas hold’em though. The last tradition that you mentioned was a very kind one, and I feel that it is one that I want to both try myself and encourage more to give a shot. My family does no longer buy Christmas gifts as me and my siblings have all reached our 20s, so this is perhaps a tradition we could incorporate into our Christmas celebration instead!

  19. Angela Pecarina

    Allison, I love that you shared something so personal. I can understand the change of houses during holidays because you are so use to what was done in the past. That has happened to me before and although it is still fun, I still missed the old ways. What your grandma has you do with the $10 is very special. Thanksgiving is a special time for everyone up here I think and I hope it goes well this year for you!

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