Thanksgiving is typically a time when loved ones get together to share a feast and count their blessings.
Residents across The Laker/Lutz News coverage area shared their thoughts about their holiday traditions, favorite Thanksgiving foods, and what the day means to them.
Reginald Hills, 50, who works in nursing administration, said his favorite Thanksgiving memory was having all four generations of the family together at Thanksgiving 2000.
His extended family typically gathers in Dallas for Thanksgiving, but Hills and his wife, Traina, along with daughters, Toniah, 8, and Keriana, 3, recently moved to Wesley Chapel, so they won’t be able to join them in Texas.
He thinks Thanksgiving is meant to be a time for philanthropy.
“You give to those less fortunate,” Hills said. “There are homeless individuals out here or families who are homeless that need help.”
His favorite Thanksgiving foods include Cajun turkey and brisket, and of course, the fixings, including baked macaroni and cheese, green beans and sweet potatoes.
Thanksgiving also is a day for desserts.
“You’ve got to have sweet potato pie and apple pie, pecan pie, and one of my favorites, peach cobbler,” he said. “I usually gain about 5 pounds for Thanksgiving.”
Tonji Johnson, 47, of New Tampa, and her grandson Leo, 2, recently were at The Shops at Wiregrass to do a bit of shopping.
Her family has a Thanksgiving tradition: “We take a moment to say what we’ve been thankful for.”
Johnson’s favorite Thanksgiving memories involve getting together with family members in Arkansas, her home state. Typically, the feast she prepares includes chicken, dressing, ham, collard greens and sweet potatoes.
Verna Johnson, a retired first-grade teacher from Lutz offered this definition of Thanksgiving: “It’s just family and thanking God. It’s a family gathering.”
She said she is grateful for the many blessings in her life.
Her favorite Thanksgiving food is cranberry salad, which she makes with apples, celery, cranberries, nuts and raspberry Jell-O.
“That was my mom’s favorite recipe,” she said.
Johnson, who is 81, makes it every year.
“In fact, my daughter said to me yesterday, ‘Mom, you’re going to make that cranberry salad, aren’t you?” she said. “That was my mom’s favorite Thanksgiving recipe.”
Some of Verna Johnson’s favorite Thanksgiving memories come from the days when her husband was in the military and they celebrated with military friends.
“It was family away from family,” she said.
Lou Giardina, an electrician from Land O’ Lakes, said his family has a tradition.
“Typically we just all get together and tell everybody what we’re thankful for,” he said.
His favorite Thanksgiving food is stuffing.
“It’s my mother’s stuffing, but my wife just happened to make the same kind,” said Giardina, 44. “Her mother made the same kind as my mother.
“That’s why I married her. The stuffing,” he said, laughing.
Giardina has a vivid memory of one Thanksgiving.
“I got to basic training and the next day was Thanksgiving,” he said.
The officers may have given them a little bit of a break.
“I think they didn’t yell at us that much that day,” he said.
Tara Palumbo, 25, a stay-at-home mom in Zephyrhills, recently was at Zephyr Park with her son, Corbyn Adams, 2.
“We always go to my aunt’s house, every year. My aunt does all of the cooking,” Palumbo said.
Well, there is one thing that her aunt doesn’t make, and it happens to be the dish that Palumbo likes best.
“My favorite is green bean casserole,” she said. “I make it and bring it. I just love it.”
Natalie Allison, 23, of Zephyrhills, thinks she has an unusual tradition.
“Usually you eat turkey on Thanksgiving,” Allison said. “I don’t eat turkey. So, my grandma cooks me ham every year.”
Allison added that she likes Thanksgiving better than Christmas. And that’s because it focuses on two things: Family and food.
Megan Fromm-Sada, 37, a barber who lives in Zephyrhills, has a traditional view of Thanksgiving.
“It’s a time to be thankful and a time for family,” she said.
Her idea of a good Thanksgiving dinner includes turkey, ham and mashed potatoes. She could care less if there is pumpkin or pecan pie, however.
“I’m not a big dessert eater,” said Fromm-Sada, who generally prepares the holiday meal. She was at the park with her niece, Kiara Graham.
The 4-year-old said if she were baking a turkey, she’d take it out of the oven and make it into a pie.
Good thing that Fromm-Sada is in charge of the kitchen on Thanksgiving.
David Denny, 85, a winter resident in Zephyrhills, said getting his family together wasn’t a simple thing when he was young, so it was always special.
He still enjoys Thanksgiving gatherings — including turkey, sweet potatoes, and mashed potatoes and gravy — but now those feasts are with friends he knows in Zephyrhills.
For the retired electronic engineer, Thanksgiving “means giving thanks for just being here on the planet, and being healthy and being able to have a good mind, being able to understand and converse with others.
“I’m 85 now. I’m very thankful for my health, mental and physical,” he said. “To me, that’s worth more than all of the money they have in the banks.”
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