Thanksgiving Traditions

Monday Musings from Melinda by Melinda M.

Thanksgiving’s coming! Are you ready?!  (Read about last year’s Thanksgiving post here.)

I remember my first Hawaii Thanksgiving: I was fresh off the boat from college, living in Honolulu and with my friend’s family at the Pacific Beach Hotel. Now, eating at a restaurant for Thanksgiving was normal for me – my mom was NOT a cook so we nearly always ate out for the holiday. But given that I had been on the east coast, the setting and the menu were usually like something out of a Martha Stewart magazine. The Pacific Beach Hotel Thanksgiving buffet was definitely NOT. First of all, it was sunny outside, the beach was a stone’s throw away and there were hundreds of Japanese tourists among us and several other local families.

I remember how strange it was for me to have miso soup, sashimi, butterfish, and teriyaki steak along with turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes. Actually, I’m not confident those traditional foods were even there, so prominent is my memory of the Japanese/local foods that I ate.

Thanksgiving 2006:  Maui cousins!

Then, when I married, we went to Maui for Thanksgiving to be with my husband’s family for several years. This was the holiday they had chosen to be together. In the sweltering heat of Kihei, it was also different for me: the foods kept coming out from 9a to 9p and we all ate continuously. It was just a cook/eat/drink, cook/eat/drink cycle. Lots of paper plates, lots of beers from the coolers, lots of good-fun chaos as friends came by to say hello, have a plate and be on their way.

Thanksgiving = lots of tv watching with the cousins.

Sure there was turkey, gravy, stuffing, ham, and the most killah cornbread but there was also poke, garlic shrimp, nishime, sushi, and my brother-in-law’s fried wonton.


As the kids got older, going to Maui began to feel too rushed and the close friends we had made in Hilo began getting together for the holiday.

The keiki (kids) of the Hilo ohana (family).

We organized a potluck tradition for many years that included potatoes, yams, turkey and ham but also tofu salad, sashimi, rice and SPAM musubi.

Our Hilo hostess with the most-ess!

Though there was a more definitive start time to eat, we still didn’t sit around one table; rather, we took our plates to various spots and talked story with each other – I always looked forward to catching up with my friend’s mom, who is now 94 and just a delight.

But, as they say, change is the only constant, and this year things are set to change. Our long-time hosts need to leave for Honolulu on Thanksgiving Day and understandably don’t want to host this year. Same goes for another family who has an equally spacious place.dsc_0337-1Not willing to say good-bye to this get together of friends who have become family, I’ve invited all 20 of us to our cozy house for Thanksgiving Eve. I’m not exactly sure what I’ve gotten myself into but it will be memorable, I’m sure!

I hope yours is too, no matter the menu!



    • This year did not disappoint! I survived with 20 guests and venison, turkey, rib eye, salmon, warabi and tofu salads and of course Spam musubi! So much to be thankful for. Hope yours is just as enjoyable!


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