I would be a hypocrite in saying that Thanksgiving traditions are pointless when holidays are days literally built on tradition. There are many good traditions that are a part of Thanksgiving, such as the feelings of togetherness, seeing loved ones, and giving thanks for all of the blessings you have in life. But what I am critiquing are the bad traditions that should be changed because they are making Thanksgiving a worse holiday with their existence.

1. Serving the Same Old Turkey

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Christin Urso

Everyone is used to the Rockwellian image of whoever is hosting the meal bringing the sizzling turkey straight out of the oven (which should probably be resting for 30-40 minutes BTW), with perfectly golden brown skin, in the familiar turkey-shaped-silhouette, to the table of hungry, eagerly awaiting guests. The problem with this is that this is literally the worst possible way to cook a turkey. It’s simply an exercise in futility to keep an oddly-shaped 10-20 pound hunk of meat cooked evenly.

You have to be able to slaughter some of your sacred cows in order for your Thanksgiving turkey to surpass the rest. There are a number of ways to do this, including a technique called “spatchcocking” the turkey, sous-viding it, or serving yakitori-style.  If you insist on keeping this Rockwellian image at your next Thanksgiving, you should go through the steps of adding multiple layers of flavor to the actual meat. Stepping up your turkey gravy and cranberry sauce game goes a long way to making a bland tasting bird taste really good. Adam Raguses explains this perfectly using some PG-13 metaphors.

2. Pumpkin Pie

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I love pumpkin pie. You are a weirdo if you don’t. So why is it on this list? Pumpkin pie is a food version of cultural appropriation. Thanksgiving stole this wonderful gourd away from what should be part of a conventional diet and hogged it all for itself. When was the last time you ate pumpkin outside of Thanksgiving? (No, pumpkin spice lattes do not count.) Pumpkin could be used in a variety of dishes that could replace any sort of squash, or be used in a myriad of dessert flavorings. Instead, we are left eating it in a pie reserved for one day of a year or forced by convention to have it rotting on our doorsteps after ham-fistedly cutting holes out of it. Being a seasonal food isn’t an excuse to not use pumpkin. It’s too good of a thing to only be reserved for a custard pie on one day of the year.

3. A Heavy Meal

Thanksgiving is always going to a calorically dense meal that's high in carbs and fats. The problem is that historically the only thing that we have done to combat this is a small bowl or can-shaped log of cranberry sauce. This is simply unacceptable. The only way to counteract this richness, which causes you to go into a 24-hour comatose state, is by having multiple forms of acid involved in the meal. If no one has told you yet, acid is an important addition to any dish because it acts as a flavor enhancer that brings out the subtle flavors in food, like salt or msg. Acid can be used in a number of ways in the Thanksgiving meal. Some of these ways include using sourdough bread in your stuffing, putting white wine in pretty much everything, having a side salad, mixing-in sour cream to your mashed potatoes, adding balsamic vinegar to your roasted Brussel sprouts, etc. Do anything! Just don’t hinge the whole meal on this.

4. Everyone Bringing Something

Thanksgiving is a meal about bringing people you like (and maybe even some you don’t) in a North American-based celebration of thanks. One of the traditions that have come out of this is everyone bringing something to the meal. This simply has to stop. There’s always a situation where Carter brings in the 3rd similar tasting casserole that everyone has to eat, crack a fake smile, and say tastes awesome. Please don’t be a Carter. But also don’t be Aunt Stacy who brings a couple of bottles of 2-Buck Chuck and drinks a little too much of your good stuff. The golden rule of this is to ask the host— who hopefully can cook— what you should do. This could be in the form of bringing take-home containers, serving utensils, a non-confrontational attitude, etc.

5. Celebrating the Holiday at All?

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There are many good reasons to not celebrate the holiday. While there are many benefits to the holiday, if you don’t have a group of people or family that you feel comfortable eating with or simply don’t care about what the holiday stands for, then maybe celebrating Thanksgiving isn't for you.

Thanksgiving is a lot of work; hosting, organizing travel, and canceling your whole week to cook make this a very labor-intensive day that simply might not be worth it. But if you do choose to celebrate, try changing up some of the classic traditions to make your holiday run more smoothly.