For instance, my aunt would serve a stuffing filled with the usual onions, celery, spices, bread crumbs, along with added chopped apples and sweet potatoes. I really enjoyed the additions so I adopted it for me. Other people prefer a rice stuffing with apples, pecans, or cranberries.
As for cranberry sauce, I love picking wild cranberries and using those to make my own sauce. The local ones are much smaller and a bit tarter and make a really awesome sauce. Around here, they wait for the first frost before picking the cranberries because the frost makes them a bit softer and sweeter. My parents on the other hand, always bought the cranberry sauce with and without cranberries.
Then there is the traditional pumpkin pie which most people bake and then serve with whipped cream or cool whip but I prefer a haupia topping. Haupia is a coconut pudding you can make from scratch or find a packaged mix. Once the pie is out of the oven, top the pie with the haupia pudding and let everything cool together. It adds a nice twist to the pie and if you have any folks with either dairy allergies or are vegan, the haupia meets their dietary needs.
Dad always made the mashed potatoes. He'd cook the potatoes with the skins till they were really soft before draining them and popping them into a bowl. Dad then used a ton of butter as he mashed the potatoes. Instead of milk, he used heavy cream because he felt we needed to make the mashed potatoes more festive. At the end, he added salt and pepper to taste. Mom always told us the skins added roughage and was healthier for us.
Mom took care of the turkey. Since she wasn't the best cook, she always bought one of the one turkeys with the pop up sensor and she wrapped it in the bag to catch juices and steam the turkey at the same time. She was also up quite early to get the turkey started so it'd be ready in time. I took care of the gravy because mom could never make it without lumps, lumps, and more lumps. I tended to melt butter in a pan, add a bit of flour before browning it, and then adding the juice to make a really awesome gravy. The gravy always seemed to mesh perfectly with the potatoes.
Of course they had to make the candied sweet potatoes made up of those canned yams that seem to have no taste mixed with brown sugar, spices and butter. I think it was another aunt who used marshmallow cream in hers while one of my grandmothers tossed chopped pecans on hers. I think this is one dish, every woman hand her own version of this recipe. When I left home, I started with fresh sweet potatoes instead of canned because I preferred the flavor and taste.
My other grandmother always contributed a veggie dish made with celery jello and canned mixed vegetables cured in a bundt like pan. It was what it was and everyone dutifully ate it. Dad's only contribution to the meal was the mashed potatoes since he and my brothers preferred watching football and various parades while all the women did the preparation.
If you think back to your childhood, I'm sure you have memories like this. I'm lucky in that I never had the drunk relative who came to all the celebrations. Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. Have a great day. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving day tomorrow whether you stay home and head off elsewhere.