Sometimes a beloved tradition has roots in sheer necessity. For small children, Thanksgiving Day can be very long.
Adults are flurried with the feast. It’s difficult for kids to find their niche amongst long-lost relatives and the unceremonious sucking noise cranberry makes as it slides out of the can.
We found a way to capture the kids’ imaginations, allow them into the kitchen, and teach thankfulness. This year will be our ninth year observing this home-grown tradition.
On Thanksgiving day, at about 11 am, our family celebrates Snoopy Thanksgiving. I knew it was officially a tradition when our daughter announced at dinner when she has kids, they will celebrate Snoopy Thanksgiving too.
The origins of Snoopy Thanksgiving are simple and born out of necessity. The inspiration is the classic Thanksgiving special “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.” Peppermint Patty, Marcy, and Franklin invite themselves to Charlie Brown’s house for Thanksgiving. Only a truly panicked person would enlist his dog to cook a feast. Nobody has ever accused Charlie Brown of being the epitome of cool capability, so it is no surprise that Snoopy willingly steps in and helps. Snoopy is like that.
While turkey and pumpkin pie cook back at the dog house, a chef’s-hat-wearing Snoopy toasts toast, pops popcorn, pretzes the pretzels, and finds Mrs. Brown’s secret stash of jelly beans. He puts together a meal for the kids, sets up the ping pong table in the yard, battles a vicious lawn chair, decorates the table using gravity and a good arm, and digs in after Linus gives a speech seemingly written by the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. Yum.
Peppermint Patty, forgetting her manners and her sensible shoes (Birkenstocks in November, no socks?), decides to verbally thrash Snoopy’s Thanksgiving. Mindful Marcy sets her straight, of course, and everyone piles into the Brown family station wagon for a trip to the matriarch’s condo for a real meal. They sing.
Snoopy and Woodstock, dressed as crisp, prim pilgrims, eat a feast the moment the car is out of sight. Snoopy’s a scamp, a hold-out (and a heck of a pilot/novelist/lawyer/hockey player/dog), but that isn’t the point. He teaches a lesson to the kids: it doesn’t matter what you eat on Thanksgiving, as long as your heart is grateful for what is on your plate.
Our tradition is to serve pretzels, popcorn, jelly beans, and buttered toast a la Chef Snoopy to the kids mid-morning on Thanksgiving Day. While eating, they watch the Peanuts DVD. It’s a great way to tide their tummies over to the real feast, usually served around 2pm. They also love to help prepare Snoopy Thanksgiving. It’s hard for preschoolers to help baste a turkey, but they can butter toast and put jellybeans in a bowl. It is very kid-controlled and they take great pride in their preparations. They are involved in the day, while learning the importance of family and cultural tradition.
Pilgrims weren’t as prim as we imagine. I think they would smile and approve of a three-year-old giving thanks for green jelly beans and for the miracle that is popcorn.