As November begins, the upcoming holidays make their appearance.
Decorations and holiday food fill nearby stores. Families prep for the well known event – Thanksgiving.
For some, Thanksgiving holds a special place for making traditions: Turkey, football and family are typical occurrences.
Others follow a similar path.
But there’s a twist: for these Oklahomans Thanksgiving means no meat.
Over the last two years Hannah Mussleman has experienced Thanksgiving as a vegetarian. With a supportive family, the theme stays the same. Certain dinner items are simply no longer on her menu.
“My family is very understanding and have gone out of their way to make meals for me – which is great,” Mussleman said. “I never expect them too and will always offer to provide food for myself.”
“For me, a lot of the meals my mom and I make has just been taking out the meat and replacing it with veggies or beans,” she said. “Over the last year I’ve learned I’m perfectly happy just eating quinoa with beans and veggies.”
Mussleman’s decision to become a vegetarian occurred around the time of the 2016 presidential election.
So Mussleman decided to help the environment in her own way.
During Thanksgiving, she’s continued to find a way to still enjoy the Thanksgiving classics, without having meat on her plate.
“For me it’s all about the sides at holidays. Green bean casserole, sweet potatoes casserole, mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, those are my official ‘go to’ now,” she said.
Mussleman substitutes meat with broths and vegetables, which became a learning experience for her family while preparing meals.
“[My family] didn’t think of it when preparing Thanksgiving meals, but it’s something I have to be aware of,” she said.
Other families treat Thanksgiving like a regular day.
Selena Luna stopped celebrating Thanksgiving when her grandmother died a few years ago.
“Thanksgiving was always held at her house, and we never did anything anymore as a family,” she said.
“My grandmother was the rock of the family. She kept us all together.”
Now Luna treats the holiday like any other day. She uses it as a day to handle errands and relax, since she’s off work.
But she misses the tradition.
“There is nothing I would change. Death is a natural thing,” Luna said. “I do wish we kept our tradition alive and celebrated together as a family. I have a really big family, so it would be nice to be together again.”
Before her grandmother died, Luna’s family would celebrate with the traditional Thanksgiving feast. Coming from a Mexican background, it gave her and her family a chance to branch out and cook something different.
“It was a great excuse to eat ‘American’ food, but we did bring out the tequila,” Selena said.
While others begin their own traditions, old and new, some have ventured to places where they celebrate differently than Oklahomans.
Sooner-born Jade Monroe moved to Nashville in 2010 for college. Since then, the time span between holidays led to difficulties when attempting to visit her hometown: Norman.
“In Norman specifically, everyone has a place to go,” she said.
“The culture of Oklahoma in general is a very humble, ‘take their shirt off their back for you’ type of place. You go to the Super Target and you know everyone. Here, it can be a little more challenging. There’s something about Oklahoma that just feels like home, in general. To everyone. I think that’s the thing that I miss the most about it!”
Since her move, Monroe spends her Thanksgivings in Nashville, remembering good times.
“Sometimes, I make a big meal for myself. Or at least I try,” Monroe said, “Cracker Barrel and Whole Foods have great options for those spending the holiday alone. We typically try to do Friendsgiving. But it’s never usually on Thanksgiving Day. But it’s good for people who are trying to establish a home here. I try to intentionally remember my grandparents during these holidays.”
Over the last few years, Monroe mourned the passing of her grandparents. Since then, connection to the rest of her family has faded.
“My holidays in general since leaving Oklahoma have been somber. Due in large part to the death of my grandparents and working through difficult changes in my family,” Monroe said, “I typically cannot afford to come home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
Monroe makes an extra effort to spend the holiday alone.
“I cannot explain it but there is something warm about the nostalgia and melancholy,” she continued, “I wear my Nana’s perfume. I put on James Taylor to remember my Poppy. Sometimes I absorb the quiet and write or paint.”
Monroe said she stays thankful.
“I am thankful. I am thankful that I have a home, that I get to live in a city I love, that I get to pursue my dreams,” she said.
In the midst of it all, Monroe is left wanting to start a family of her own.
“My dreams are very simple. I just want to share a life with someone who loves me and have a family. My tradition is simply this: be grateful for what I have in the present. Because this too will change,” Monroe said.
Whether it’s spent surrounded by food, a box of paints on the floor, or a typical day with family – Thanksgiving is always celebrated in its own way.