Thanksgiving is a holiday steeped in tradition. Roasted turkey, football games, naps on the couch.
Then again, what’s more American than breaking the rules — or making new ones.
Like renting a pool and taking the extended family swimming. Or throwing the shindig on another day so loved ones who have to work don’t feel rushed. Or ditching the bird altogether and serving up some homemade ravioli.
Area families are doing that and more, twisting the centuries-old celebration of the fall harvest to something that is far more meaningful — or convenient — for them.
In Orrville, the extended Reusser family has gotten so big, they rent the local YMCA for the whole day, where 80 or more family members will show up for lunch, dinner and a swim.
“Some come for one meal, some stay for both, some just visit in between,” said Lisa Reusser, one of the organizers. Reusser herself usually ditches the party midafternoon to go home and finish a third turkey and a fresh pan of stuffing for the late meal.
The swimming depends on whether there is a Y lifeguard interested in a couple of hours of work on Thanksgiving Day, and almost always, someone is available. There’s also plenty of room for card or board games.
“We pass the hat and collect money, and we pay the Y and the lifeguard. Everybody chips in what they can,” Reusser said.
In Kent, David and Brenda Vitale will celebrate the day at home, like many of us. But the smells coming from their kitchen will be decidedly different.
For the first time this year, their Thanksgiving spread will feature homemade ravioli, meatballs, sausage, antipasto and spumoni, although they will make a little room on the table for pumpkin pie.
The family bonding activity of making ravioli is actually an old family Christmas tradition, David Vitale said.
“My grandparents on both sides were from Sicily, so they brought it across with them, and then my parents did it,” he said.
But this year, a son’s Christmas wedding plans will interfere, so the Vitales decided to move the tradition up a holiday.
“It doesn’t matter when we do it. We’re all looking forward to it,” he said.
Other area families will be celebrating very traditional meals, just not on Thanksgiving Day.
Akron resident Terrie Wilson said for the first time, her husband’s been scheduled to work on the holiday, and although his shift doesn’t begin until 11 p.m., it would break up a two-day ritual that includes waking Friday morning to put up the Christmas tree.
“He was so bummed, but I said, ‘Don’t worry. We got this!’ ” she said.
The family simply shifted everything by 24 hours. The kids will skip school so the turkey can be dressed today, and the tree will be dressed Thursday, long before David Wilson shuffles off to work.
“Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be on Thanksgiving,” Terrie Wilson said. “You deal with what you got. It’s not about what time you do it, it’s about who you spend it with.”
Fran and Bud Seabeck say they are perfectly content to spend it with three dogs.
The retired Seabecks have a home in North Canton and usually winter in Florida. But when both of their adult daughters hinted at wanting to go out of town for Thanksgiving, the Seabecks volunteered to return home to dog-sit.
“Guess we love our kids,” Fran Seabeck chuckled.
The Seabecks arrived last week in time to share a traditional turkey dinner with daughters Heather Lavelle and Angie Hull and their families on Saturday. Then the gals, husbands and kids headed off to New York City and Key West, each leaving behind a dog.
Romeo, a French bulldog, and Walter, a chocolate Lab, will join the Seabecks’ own four-legged family member Wilson, a Lab mix, for a quiet, lazy Thanksgiving day.
“We’ll probably go out to eat, then just come back and enjoy the evening with the dogs,” Fran Seabeck said. “We’re dog lovers, so it’s all good.”