A Full Spread of Possibilities This Thanksgiving

In the fall of 1621, almost one year after the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, they gathered with the Wampanoag Indians for a feast to celebrate the colonists' first successful harvest. Historians believe the two groups ate foods native to North America such as turkey, duck, lobster, crab, berries, pumpkin and squash.

Although the modern American Thanksgiving menu today may differ from the original, the holiday's essence remains the same: giving thanks for what you have and sharing with others.

Each family has their own holiday traditions. A "typical" Thanksgiving for most Americans includes indulging in mass amounts of turkey, followed by a lazy afternoon on the couch watching football and catching up with family members. A midday nap may even be included in the agenda.

The modern Thanksgiving meal still revolves around foods native to North America. Turkey-whether brined, basted in the oven or deep-fried-is the main focus of many families' celebrations. So many Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving that the holiday is often referred to as "Turkey Day."

Although the turkey is the star of the show, there are usually plenty of side dishes to accompany the beautiful bird. Most American households will have stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, a green vegetable and of course, pies.

"The turkey is always the main focus on Thanksgiving, but in my house it's more about the side dishes," said junior Kelly Krisza.

"There are so many different things you could prepare; the possibilities are endless!" continued Krisza.

What would a traditional Thanksgiving meal be without stuffing? While stuffing is often associated specifically with turkey, the practice of stuffing large birds, not just turkeys, was common in the Pilgrims' era. Today, many choose to skip stuffing the turkey on Thanksgiving and just prepare it as a side dish.

Another traditional Thanksgiving side dish is mashed potatoes, which is often served with gravy. Many might even consider gravy a side dish in itself, since it is used to lubricate the turkey, moisten the potatoes and douse the stuffing. Simple mashed potatoes are a popular favorite, but some may choose to dress them up with cheese, garlic or bacon.

No Thanksgiving meal would be complete without a pie, or three. After all, the day is about excess. Old standards, such as pumpkin and apple usually make an appearance at many dinner tables. Pecan is also another favorite among families. Pies are icons of the holiday table.

"In my house, Thanksgiving feels like a bigger deal than Christmas. My family puts a huge emphasis on being thankful and coming together for the special holiday," said junior Gabriella Romognuolo.

"My mom starts prepping for the big day an entire week in advance. Coming home from school to a huge feast and getting to spend quality time with my family is more than I could ask for," added Romognuolo.

On the other hand, some families have adapted to new customs and traditions for this special day. Although the traditional Thanksgiving is celebrated in millions of households across America, there are alternative ways to celebrate as well. Just because you stray away from the cultural "norm" does not make how you celebrate any less significant.

Some families are always on the go. Mom and dad may both have demanding full-time jobs, and the kids are always on the run from school to sports practices. Even during the holiday season, some people simply don't have the time to prepare a huge meal for their families.

Unlike Christmas, many restaurants are open on Thanksgiving Day. Busy families may find it appealing to go out to eat for a traditional Thanksgiving meal, saving them the time and effort it would take to prep it themselves.

Other families may choose to preorder their Thanksgiving meal through a supermarket or caterer, such as Whole Foods. This makes it possible for them to spend more time with their families and less time slaving away in the kitchen.

This year's Thanksgiving is a unique one indeed. For the first and only time in any of our lifetimes, the first day of Hanukkah lands on the same day as Thanksgiving. This is not going to happen for another 70,000 years.

This has brought forward the term "Thanksgivukkah." Buzzfeed.com has compiled a list of "Thanksgivukkah" recipes that combine traditional Thanksgiving and Hanukkah dishes. Those individuals who wish to celebrate this amazing new holiday will find a Jewish twist to their favorite traditional Thanksgiving foods. To name a few, some foods included are potato latkes with cranberry applesauce, Manizchewitz-brined turkey, roasted brussel sprouts with pastrami and pickled red onion, challah-apple stuffing, rye pumpkin pie, and pecan pie rugelah.

"I think it's amazing that something like this is happening in our lifetime," said senior Allie Engleberg.

"I'm so glad that I get to experience it. Being Jewish myself, I might try out one of these recipes," she added.

For some, Thanksgiving is a time of tradition. But if tradition has become dull, don't be afraid to try a new one-or even start your own!