Strange Thanksgiving Traditions

In Stories

Thanksgiving2011_2Every family has its peculiar holiday traditions. For many in the US, Thanksgiving is like groundhog day: each year they eat the same food, with the same people, at the same time, in the same place. They get into the same squabbles with family, only to reconcile once food is on the table.

As a Canadian, American Thanksgiving continues to be a spectacular novelty. I can’t say for sure that many of the Thanksgiving traditions that I have married into are particularly horsey, but here are a few:

1. Late for Breakfast

Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law’s always begins with a breakfast of pancakes and bacon. And Elisa and I are always late. The reason for this, of course, is the fact that we have horses. The ponies need to be fed and turned out, and stalls need to be cleaned. On Thanksgiving, Elisa tries to do as much of the barn work herself, and avoids asking others for help, so that they can enjoy Thanksgiving with their families. We are fortunate, however, to have the help of the owner of Rock Creek Farms, Rosemarie Spillane, who also sees the importance of family on this day, and so helps with bringing in in the evening so that Elisa has as little to do as possible when we return home after dinner.

2. Expressing Anal Glands

This is by far the most bizarre of our informal Thanksgiving traditions. Betraying my ignorance of animal life, it was in fact on a Thanksgiving that I first learned that dogs had anal glands, and that they needed to be ‘expressed.’ Totally gross. But Elisa loves to perform this task. My mother-in-law has, I think, about a million dogs, and they are grateful when Elisa arrives at the house to provide them with sweet, sweet, butt relief.

Expressing anal glands with the Wallace's (aka soon to be my new family).

Braden and Elisa Wallace discuss the process and results of expressing canine anal glands.

Posted by Timothy Harfield on Monday, April 30, 2012

3. Deep Frying the Turkey

Deep frying a turkey is probably a very bad idea. This is not something I ever heard of a Canadian doing. As a Canadian, all I knew about deep frying a turkey was that it was the cause of hundreds of house fires in the US each year.

Thanksgiving2013During my first thanksgiving with Elisa’s family, Uncle Charlie insisted that I take care of deep frying the turkey (supervised of course, and only after performing a number of safety checks). For some reason, Elisa’s family thinks that it is the funniest thing in the world to see the Canadian deep fry the ‘birky turd’ (note: Elisa hates it when I refer to the turkey in this way, but I can’t help myself. To me, wixing my mords is the funniest thing in the world…and farts…farts are also the funniest thing in the world…but I digress).

4. Eating Late

Each year the family decides that ‘this year is going to be different.’ Each year, we commit ourselves to eating Thanksgiving dinner at a reasonable hour of 5 or 6 oclock. Each year, we don’t finish cooking until 8:30 or 9. This year, it’s going to be different.


What are your strange and unofficial Thanksgiving traditions? How does your life with horses affect how you celebrate the holidays? Share your stories in the comments below.

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  • Susan Friedland

    I can’t bring myself to watch a video with anything related to expressing anal glands. A couple of years ago my husband and I got the bright idea we could “save money” if we learned to do it ourself for our two dogs. We watched a how-to video and were both traumatized and decided no matter how much the vet charges, it’s money well spent.

    My life with a horse was affected on Turkey Day this year by. . . a colic scare. Good thing I had thrown the turkey breast in the slow cooker about 20 mintues before I got the text from a barn friend. Thankfully my horse was/is okay and we had a decent meal regardless. 😉

  • Patrick McKinney

    Likewise, “I’ll trust you on the video”! Our Thanksgiving is the one holiday that Michelle and I have declared “our holiday” each year. All other holidays, we are on the road between Chicago, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Maryland. If it’s just the four of us, sobeit, but normally we cook for 10-12, as many as 16. The one dish I could not do without… My 90yo Grandmother’s Oyster dressing. It was a favorite of her Dad’s(my Great-Grandfather), and to this day, she still makes a small dish for the two of us!

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