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The tradition of gratitude Allison K. Sampité-montecalvo | Sat, Nov 24 2012 12:00 PM

From turkey dinners to watching football and planning for Christmas, Thanksgiving traditions vary.

Locally, elected and city officials in Chula Vista and National City shared their annual holiday celebrations.
Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox said her family celebrates a traditional Thanksgiving.

“Our family is like most families that have a chance to get together with family and a small group of friends,” Cox said.

The Cox family tradition consists of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables with one key ingredient.

“The way my mom used to make it,” Cox said. “Her gravy was made using cold water with flour and mixing it up with no lumps and the drippings of the pan... My mother used to be very scientific on buttering the bird. That was before Butterball turkeys.”

Around two o’clock in the afternoon is when the Cox family typically sits down to eat.

“I do the cooking and he does the cleaning,” Cox said of her husband Greg.

Cox said Thanksgiving is traditionally held at home with her husband and two daughters, Emily and Elizabeth.

“The idea for Thanksgiving is that we share,” Cox said. “You share whether it’s in the shopping or food preparations or clearing of the table.”

Cox said Thanksgiving is about spending time together.

“It gives the family a lot of time to talk about things you don’t catch in that two-minute phone call,” she said. “That’s the time in which you exchange good conversation … there’s always something about Thanksgiving dinner that brings up a memory.”

While National City Mayor Ron Morrison said he also grew up with a traditional Thanksgiving, the focus has shifted over time.

“Normally my Thanksgiving tradition is getting ready for my Christmas party, which is the following Saturday,” Morrison said. “We literally open up the house and any and everybody shows up. At any one time we could easily have 200 to 300 people.”

Morrison started the annual tradition 17 years ago on the first Saturday o each December.

“When we started off we thought it’d be kind of a small deal and it grew real fast,” he said. “The food is all furnished and people show up and everyone just celebrates. It’s just people getting together and having a good time.”

The tradition stemmed from community movie nights and other events he’d host for the neighborhood at his house 30 years ago.

“It’s one of those things that for the ones who come … it has become a tradition,” Morrison said. “It keeps our community a community. We do things together and we do things outside of our own social, ethnic, economic groups.”

National City Police Chief Adolfo Gonzales grew up in Tijuana, not celebrating the American tradition of Thanksgiving.

However, after his family moved to Chula Vista when he was 5 years old, they soon began an annual event.

“We adapted to the customs of the United States,” Gonzales said.

“Back in the day it took half a day to cook a turkey,” Adolfo said laughing. “Today it takes a couple hours to do a deep fried turkey and we have the tradition of watching football.”

Adolfo’s immediate family, including his daughters, sons and others, comes to his house to enjoy the meal.

“My daughters help out and make pumpkin pie,” he said. “My sons and I cook the turkey in the deep fryer. We all chip in and do a little bit of everything.”

Adolfo said for his family the tradition of Thanksgiving dinner is followed by watching the annual football game.
“It’s about spending time with the family during the holiday season and wishing all the best for family and friends,” Adolfo said. “I wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving Day and if you’re going to celebrate, don’t inebriate. If you’re going drink, get a designated driver.”

Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano grew up in El Paso with a very traditional Thanksgiving celebration.

“Being in Texas, it’s about families, food and football,” Bejarano said frankly.

While in El Paso, Bejarano said the day began with the entire family attending the annual parade.

“We would wake up early and go down to the parade as a family, watch the parade and then it was back home to spend the entire afternoon with family eating turkey and watching football,” he said. “Now we do that about every other year.”

Bejarano said when his family does go to El Paso, they enjoy the Thanksgiving feast on Friday, because they go and see the Dallas football game Thursday.

Locally, Bejarano said Thanksgiving dinner is prepared for 60 to 80 guests, and alternates between his home and his in-laws’ in El Cajon.

“It used to be the traditional turkey in the oven, but now we have the deep fryer,” he said. “On occasion, part of the Hispanic tradition is turkey mole.”

Bejarano said the dinner typically consists of three to four turkeys or more, ham and all the extras.

“It’s more like a small party, it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Bejarano said it’s important to preserve the Thanksgiving tradition.

“All of us are so busy and involved with work and different personal interests and it really reinforces the family to stay together and continue that bonding to be thankful and kind of forget about everything going on … at least for that day,” he said.

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