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Monday, December 11, 2023

How Californians Celebrate Thanksgiving


It’s almost Thanksgiving, a holiday that in much of the country may evoke images of rustling autumn leaves and hands warmed by the fireplace.

But in California, many of us celebrate Thanksgiving a little differently. In the land of year-round fresh produce and sunny skies, we swap green beans for brussels sprouts, put sourdough in our stuffing and often enjoy our feasts outdoors.

For the past few weeks, readers have been giving me the Golden State spin on the holiday. Here are some samples, lightly edited:

“I’m from the East Coast, and most of my Thanksgiving memories from home include my family gathered around Dad’s turkey fryer in winter coats and wool hats. Since moving to Northern California, I’ve made an annual tradition of running a local turkey trot to enjoy the relative warmth. Even 10 years later, I love sending post-race pictures of me in a T-shirt and shorts to my family back home.” — Meredith Alcala, Alameda

“Guacamole always has a place at our Thanksgiving table. And usually tortillas. Turkey tacos are the best! I didn’t realize that this wasn’t a usual staple until my partner from the Midwest attended his first Thanksgiving meal with us.” — Veronica Brand, Sunnyvale

“We set up a table in the front yard that has a partial view of Laguna Beach, complete with candelabra, local greenery and shells. As the sun drops, the spread comes to the table and we wait for a chance to view the ‘green flash.’ We just have to watch out for the sprinklers.” — Diana Phillips, Laguna Beach

“Our family has never loved having turkey on Thanksgiving, and several years ago we hit on a fantastic replacement that makes everyone happy: ceviche! Now, we always make a joke about who will be bringing the Traditional Thanksgiving Ceviche to dinner.” — Jenn Tang, Berkeley

“Our family and friends have been celebrating Thanksgiving in the off-road desert riding area of Ocotillo Wells for about 20 years. It is a dry camping area, and we typically have 12 to 18 R.V.s and have had up to 80 people for dinner. Everyone brings a couple of sides, we deep-fry turkeys, and there’s usually a post-dinner football game with players of all ages. We raised our kids with this tradition, and now we’re doing the same with our grandkids.” — Samantha Bouws, Murrieta

“The first Thanksgiving I spent in San Francisco over 20 years ago with my husband, a city native of Sicilian heritage, he surprised me by making ‘Sicilian cracked crab.’ I was far from family and a little lonesome. A gifted cook, he suggested inviting a few friends over and putting on the dinner himself — my only task was to set the table, choose the music and light the candles!

“With a big empty bowl for the shells on the table, we dug in with our hands, carving out chunks of luscious, garlicky crab meat — sublime! To this day it remains my favorite Thanksgiving meal — decidedly San Franciscan and always delicious.” — Lisa Herrera Smedley, San Francisco

“My son and son-in-law hold an annual Thanksgiving dinner at their home in Palm Springs. All the doors are open in the house as the turkey roasts away, the breeze gently rustles the palm fronds, and friends start to drop by with their favorite holiday dishes. Everyone joins in to set the long table beside the pool, while my son strings lights over it from the palm trees to the eaves of the house. But the final touch is when the sun sets in the late afternoon over towering Mount San Jacinto. The guests are seated and we raise a glass and a thankful toast.” — Melissa Greene, Las Vegas

For more:


Today’s tip comes from Treacy Colbert, who lives in Long Beach. She recommends a Thanksgiving hike in the San Gabriel Mountains:

“A hike to Echo Mountain has been our Thanksgiving tradition for more than 20 years. I roast the turkey on Wednesday and carve it up for sammiches on Thursday morning before we set out on the trail that begins at what was once the Cobb estate at the end of Lake Street in Altadena. The trail follows the old Mt. Lowe railway route. A rack-and-pinion train once took people to the top of the mountain, where there was a grand 70-room hotel. Fire demolished the hotel between 1900 and 1905, but the ruins include a sliver of the dance floor where Los Angeles swells once dipped and twirled. You’ll also see cogs from the old railway system along the trail.

It’s a fairly steep two-and-a-half-mile climb but well worth the views at the top where we feast at one of the picnic benches.

Our son used to make this Thanksgiving hike with us, bribed by that California delicacy, his own bag of Have’A Corn Chips. He’s grown and living on his own in the Bay Area, so my husband and I make the trek solo now. After the roughly five miles up and back, we feel justified in eating an extra large slab of pumpkin pie when we get home.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.


When Judi Oyama started skateboarding in her driveway at the age of 13, she didn’t expect her flips and turns to earn her an invitation to the World Skate Games in Rome almost 51 years later.

Oyama, a Santa Cruz resident, now 64, will be heading to Italy in 2024 to compete with the United States teams in the slalom event, for which she is currently ranked second in the world in the women’s category, NBC Bay Area reports.

Oyama, who often competes against skaters a fraction of her age and who has two children of her own, has been skating nonstop for nearly five decades. In the process she blazed a trail for other female skaters at a time when women in the sport were scarce and sometimes excluded from competitions.



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