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Nontraditional Thanksgiving traditions

  • Retired carpenter Bret Lacquement and his friends have had a 20-year Thanksgiving tradition of “freeing the cranberries,” flinging canned cranberry sauce from his Guerneville deck into the forest, in the spirit of presidential pardons for turkeys. (ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat)

Thanksgiving is an all-American holiday that tends to bring out the nonconformists in the crowd, especially in California — those who demand their turkey with a side of quirky, hold the stuffiness.

In this spirit, traditions are where we find them. Some of us skip Thanksgiving altogether and head to a tropical island while everyone else is huddled at home watching football.

Others toss the cranberry sauce off the back deck, in a “free the berry” ceremony reminiscent of the White House pardoning of Tom the Turkey.

Why not? It's a free country.

Taking a hike: As a busy Wine Country chef, Chris Greenwald of Bay Laurel Culinary in Petaluma works nonstop from spring through fall, catering weddings, music festivals and harvest parties.

By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, he is always exhausted. A few years ago, he decided to break with tradition and hike the entire Kalalau Trail on the island of Kauai, all by himself.

“That was such an amazing experience,” he said. “And it was easy to get the permits at that time of year.”

A year later, he decided to go on a sea kayak trip to Espiritu Santo island off La Pazand loved it so much he returned the next year with his girlfriend.

“We kayaked on Thanksgiving Day,” he said. “You can get incredible deals on plane travel, and things are less crowded.”

This year, the couple is flying back to La Paz to hang out with a friend on his boat.

“We look forward to Thanksgiving all summer long,” he said. “Then we have a big family Christmas.”

Ironing things out: It all started with a simple conversation between two baby boomers about what it was like growing up in the 1950s, when kids roamed the neighborhood all day and didn't come home until dinner.

But what did all the moms do? Cynthia Calmenson's friend, Ellen Robin, said her mom and her friends would bring their wrinkled clothes, literally circle their ironing boards in the living room, pour cocktails and visit.

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