Thanksgiving Traditions Vary, Except for the Giving Thanks Part

By EPG Staff Report

For most Americans, the fourth Thursday of November marks the day they sit down with loved ones to show their gratitude for the positive things in their lives.

Thanksgiving is a national holiday but the celebration varies from home to home. Some celebrations include elaborate feasts that take a whole day of preparation; others are more casual, consisting of watching football, putting up the Christmas tree or just a welcome day off work. Although the traditions and customs may vary by household and sometimes by ethnic group, for many Thanksgiving is still the day when friends and family come together with the purpose of giving thanks.

There are also those who don’t have anyone to share the holiday with, or who cannot afford the expense of an American-style holiday feast, as demonstrated by the long lines at turkey giveaways and free holiday meals this week. And for others, perhaps new to this country, Thanksgiving is not yet part of their tradition.

Nonetheless, today millions of people across the country will take part in some sort of Thanksgiving related activity.

This year, EGP reached out to some of the elected officials in our coverage area to ask them about their Thanksgiving traditions. Some of those we reached out to have undergone controversy in recent months, some of it still ongoing. But that’s not the focus of this article, which is a lighter look at how they will spend the holiday. We asked them who they will spend the day with, what’s on the menu for the Thanksgiving meal, and if they will conclude the weekend with some holiday shopping. Here’s what they had to say:


City of Los Angeles – District 1

Saying he’s no chef, Councilman Gil Cedillo told EGP he always brings dessert to the Thanksgiving meal, pumpkin pie to be exact.

He says he eats the usual Thanksgiving faire, which for him includes turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and what he claims to be “the best tamales in town.”

“Thanksgiving has always been a family affair, my family tends to get together every year to enjoy one another’s company,” he said. “This year we have two very important family members joining us from above, my mother and father.”

When he is not attending events in the district, Cedillo says he’s makes sure to hit the treadmill to burn off everything he eats.

The councilman said he’s not much of a shopper, but when it comes to finding the perfect gift, you can usually find him at Barnes and Noble picking out books for friends and family.

“I hope every family has a Happy Thanksgiving and Holiday Season,” Cedillo said. “We have much to be thankful for.”

Gil Cedillo, Los Angeles councilmember -D1

Gil Cedillo, Los Angeles councilmember -D1


City of Los Angeles – District 14

Thanksgiving can be a little different for men, who often are not in charge of the cooking but are assigned other tasks to perform.

Councilman Jose Huizar told EGP he is relegated to the work crew in charge of setting up and cleaning up after the meal. Aside from the Thanksgiving staples like turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and his mother’s egg salad, Huizar’s family includes Mexican dishes like tamales, rice and beans on the dinner table when they give thanks.

Each year, the “full house” consists of Huizar’s entire immediate family and his in-laws. He said he, his siblings and mother always end up reminiscing about his late father and their childhood in Boyle Heights and Mexico.

“Thanksgiving gives us time to reflect on our blessings; I’m thankful for my family,” said Huizar, whose 3-year-old daughter Aviana has leukemia. “My daughter is doing better, she’s responding to treatment. She has a long road ahead of her but we’re hopeful she’ll be OK and that is the greatest blessing for me this Thanksgiving holiday.”

José Huizar, Los Angeles councilmember D-14

José Huizar, Los Angeles councilmember D-14


City of Montebello

Thanksgiving happens to be Mayor Christina Cortez’ favorite holiday. Her family makes a trip to Whole Foods to buy an organic turkey and after graduating beyond preparation duties, Cortez now makes the “highly anticipated” mostaccioli pasta dish.

For her the day is truly a family affair, with her mother planning meals, her aunts and uncle in charge of trimmings and her grandmother’s secret stuffing recipe was highly protected until last year when her secret recipe was passed on to Cortez.

With the china set, all 22 family members sit down to eat at exactly 5 p.m. Pictures are taken, which are later used as Christmas cards. The evening comes to an end with desserts and board games for some or a game of basketball.

“This Thanksgiving, I am specially blessed to have the opportunity to serve the residents of Montebello as Mayor – for that I am truly honored and humbled,” she said. “I wish you [residents] the very best of holiday blessings and an enjoyable gathering with loved ones this Thanksgiving.”

Christina Cortez, Montebello Mayor

Christina Cortez, Montebello Mayor


City of Monterey Park

A vegetarian, Mayor Teresa Real Sebastian is not in charge of the turkey or ham at her Thanksgiving celebration, instead she makes a vegetable side dish or her favorite cranberries and yams.

Real Sebastian and her husband will share thanksgiving dinner with more than 30 friends and family members, she told EGP. The location of the meal alternates every year between the homes of her family and her husband’s family, she said, noting that they both have very families.

She said there is typically a lot of laughter during the holiday celebration, in fact they make it a point to laugh and be happy, she said. Real Sebastian said you won’t see her waiting in line to shop the on Black Friday, because she’d rather spend time with her loved ones.

“I prefer to do online shopping because you get better parking and can use the express checkout lane,” Real Sebastian said jokingly. “I hope everyone has a safe and memorable Thanksgiving with family and friends,” she added.

 Teresa Real Sebastian, Monterey Park Mayor

Teresa Real Sebastian, Monterey Park Mayor


City of Vernon

When it comes to Thanksgiving, Mayor W. Michael McCormick says is a “traditionalist.” He spends the day at the home of his brother in Simi Valley, where they are joined by other close relatives for a dinner of turkey and all of the trimmings.

Like many families, he spends the day watching football and says he has no plans to go shopping on Black Friday because, as he puts it, he will likely complete shipping for his gift list on Christmas Eve.

This year McCormick will also be celebrating with the members of his Boy Scout Troop at their Thanksgiving meal service at the Oldtimers Foundation in Huntington Park. He said it’s a way to give back to the community an

d show the scouts that community service is a Thanksgiving tradition that must be preserved.

“We often lose sight of the true meaning of Thanksgiving Day,” McCormick said. “I make it my practice to give of myself on Thanksgiving Day to those who need a meal and companionship on this important national holiday.”

W. Michael McCormick, Vernon Mayor

W. Michael McCormick, Vernon Mayor



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November 28, 2013  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


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