By Laurie Hindman
Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday that has been celebrated in one form or another for 400 years. This tradition harkens to the colonists of the Plymouth Plantation who held a feast, after their first successful harvest. Wampanoag Indian chiefs Massasoit, Squanto and Samoset and 90 of their men attended the celebration. Over the generations a template of Thanksgiving tradition has been created, which, with a little variation here and there, can be found in most homes on the fourth Thursday of November throughout the United States.
Here is a peek into the Thanksgiving celebrations of several Berthoud families.
The Paradise Family
“We are the quintessential American family,” laughs Lisa Paradise, a fifth-generation Nebraskan whose English-Irish ancestors served with General Washington in the Revolutionary War. Paradise is married to a Greek immigrant from Crete — Makie Paradise. They have a son, Alex, aged nine, born in Colorado and a daughter, Eliana, age five, whom they adopted from China in April 2005. “We say we are English-Irish-Greek-Chinese-Americans,” joked Paradise.
“We celebrate Greek Orthodox Easter, the Chinese New Year and Saint Patrick’s Day in a big way,” she added.
She said that although her Greek in-laws are not native to America, they embrace Thanksgiving Day with gusto. “With Greeks, it’s all about food.” Paradise said when celebrating Thanksgiving with the Greek side of the family, her mother-in-law, a renowned cook, makes the traditional American turkey, but includes Greek side dishes such as individual spanakopitas, a classic Greek dish made with phyllo dough, spinach and Greek cheese, or dolmathes, which are stuffed grape leaves. For dessert, in addition to the usual pies, the Paradise family is treated to “kourlourakia” — delicate orange butter cookies made with freshly squeezed orange juice and honey.
One of Paradises’ favorite Thanksgiving memories was Eliana’s first Thanksgiving. She was two years old and had only been in the United States seven months. She spoke a smattering of English and Chinese, but delighted the gathering by periodically interrupting the festivities with an enthusiastic “Opa!” a Greek exclamation generally called out when people are enjoying a dance or performance. “It was a pretty funny Thanksgiving,” recalls Paradise.
The Skrobacz Family
Margaret and Tom Skrobacz have four children, and most recently, one son-in-law. Daughter Kate graduated from Colorado State University and is teaching at Blue Mountain Elementary; she married Nathan Klotz in 2007. Daughter Anne is a junior at Colorado State majoring in interior design. Joe is a junior at Berthoud High School and a member of the Bridge Between Show Choir. He was recently selected for All-State Choir. Lucy, the youngest, is a freshman at Berthoud High School, and though currently recovering from three fractures to her ankle, was active on the volleyball team.
With four active kids, Margaret Skrobacz said Thanksgiving has traditionally been a day of rest and relaxation. “You want to come to Thanksgiving dinner in your pajamas, go ahead. You want to wear your bunny slippers, go ahead,” she said.
Originally from New York, the Skrobacz’ have lived in Berthoud for 15 years and while this feels like home, Thanksgiving is not the same without the chaos of extended family gatherings. “I come from a large family, and it is really, really hard to be far away this time of year,” said Skrobacz. “My Mom cooked everything from scratch. My fondest memory is growing up with that smell of butter, onion and celery simmering for the stuffing.”
Staying connected to family, no matter what the distance, is paramount to Skrobacz. “I sent flowers every year to my sister in Pennsylvania. Despite the distance, we kept the spirit of remembrance. I never missed a year. I would think of her lighting her center piece while I was here in Colorado lighting mine.”
Skrobacz said on the tenth year, her sister sent flowers to her. “It’s my turn now,” read the card.
This family’s traditions also include playing a card game called, “The Great Dalmuti” and, most importantly, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “Even at 47, I can’t wait for Santa to appear.”
The Kiehn Family
Gene and Carolyn Kiehn have been married 51 years and have lived on the same farm, in southeast Berthoud for their entire marriage. Gene was born in on a farm in Berthoud, and Carolyn was born in Iowa. Retired now, the farm is worked by the Kiehn’s son Matt. The 160-acre farm is no longer large enough to sustain the family so Matt also works fields for other farmers. The Kiehns have a diversified farm, growing sugar beets, corn, pinto beans and alfalfa.
There are four generations of Kiehns, almost all living within a few miles of one another. “We have four children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren,” said Carolyn Kiehn. “We are blessed to have everyone so close.”
Most Thanksgivings there are 15 or more Kiehns crowded around the table for a traditional meal of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and pies. Although Gene and Carolyn used to play host, that tradition has been handed down to the children.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday the now greatly extended family draws names for Christmas gifts, followed by some word game like “Syzygy,” a fast-paced crossword puzzle game for multiple players. “Most of the guys just lean over the women’s shoulders and give advice,” commented Kiehn.
Kiehn said she would never forget her first Thanksgiving as a young wife. “I had a huge twenty pound turkey and it was full of ugly pin feathers. I had no idea what I was doing. My husband had to help me. We were up to midnight pulling feathers,” laughed Kiehn. “I got the big, hunky thing roasted. My reputation as a good wife was counting on it. I never ever again worried about cooking a turkey like I did that first year.”
She said being a farming family makes Thanksgiving a very meaningful holiday. “We you farm you live close to the land. You appreciate the fact that things have to grow in order for others to eat.”
Kiehn said this year there is much to be grateful for. “It is a blessing when all the crops are out and it is a good crop. We have had times when the sugar beets were frozen in the ground or the hail gets the grain. We had a good year and the families are close by and well. That’s all we can ask for.”
<p>The Skrobacz family, from left: Anne, Lucy, Tom, Joe, Margeret, son-in-law Nathan and Kate.</p>
<p>The Kiehn family, back row, from left: Matt and Rob Kiehn; front row: Carrie Davis, Carolyn Kiehn, Gene Kiehn and Annie Arnstad.</p>
<p>The Paradise family: Makie, Lisa, Eliana and Alex.</p>