Embarrassment, rattlesnakes and arepas make Thanksgiving special for local families

Maybe your clan decks the hall and hangs the stockings with care.

Maybe the brood eats itself into a turkey and dressing coma before vegging out on the couch watching pigskin.

Or perhaps your family’s Thanksgiving tradition is to walk the road less traveled, and that makes all the difference.

Families across the country will partake in various Thanksgiving traditions today and this weekend ranging from holiday crafts, flag football and cooking together. In some cases, these traditions have become just as important as the Thanksgiving meal, and they help strengthen a family’s bond.

Take Bill McIntire, whose family celebrates music, but its not your dad’s rock and roll.

Each year, McIntire and his kin play and sing church hymns and hits from the Civil War after chowing down on a holiday feast.

McIntire, a New Carlisle councilman, said the tradition may seem “dorky,” but it makes sense to his lot.

His grandma Estella Bailey was a music teacher in Caledonia, Ohio, and most members of his family can handle an instrument — piano, flute, saxophone, bagpipes, etc.

His parents, Bill and Margret McIntire, met while members of the 44 Ohio Volunteer Infantry Civil War band of Springfield, which means McIntire and his sister grew up listening to Civil War music.

Each Thanksgiving the now 31-year-old former Wright State University choir member’s family would sing songs like “Battle Cry of Freedom,” “Marching Through Georgia” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Nowadays, McIntire’s 8-year-old son Tyler favors the Union’s variation of the South’s “Dixie” song with the lyric “Away down South in the land of traitors, rattlesnakes and alligators, right away, come away, right away, come away.”

“Everybody will eat turkey and will watch football,” Bill McIntire said. “(However, singing Civil War songs) is something unique to my family. It is something we can all do that is unique to us.”

Music aside, the meal is Helena Duque Pages’ family Thanksgiving tradition.

The Beavercreek resident serves her family a feast that includes turkey, black beans, yucca rice, marinated pork, deviled eggs, arepas, buñuelos o almojábanas, coleslaw, ambrosia salad and Skyline Chili dip.

She said the food represents her family’s multicultural nature.

Pages' husband, Dr. Lazaro Pages, is originally from Cuba. She is a Colombia native and her son-in-law, Thomas Raterman, is a German-American who grew up in Cincinnati; hence the Skyline Chili dip.

Helena Duque Pages said there is no Thanksgiving in either her homeland or her husband’s. The couple and their children Elizabeth Raterman and Krystina and Victoria Pages made Thanksgiving their own.

Thanksgiving is about family and getting everything together, she said.

“(It’s to) celebrate the fact that we can eat, that we are family and that we have a country that has adopted us,” she said.

Nicole Birchfield said her family’s Thanksgiving tradition centers around laughter. It dates back to the time her cousin was pecked in the head by a rooster 21-years ago.

Birchfield’s mother, Christine Bettinger, drew a picture of a rooster pecking and attached a picture of her then 2-year-old niece. The family’s “Classics” were born.

Every year since then, Bettinger’s daughter, nieces and nephews have drawn pictures of embarrassing things that happened during the year for the Classics folder kept with care at Birchfield gradmother’s house in Cleveland.

Bettinger, who moved to Parma this summer after living in Dayton for 22 years, said the family pulls out the folder each year.

“We start telling stories and we start laughing,” she said.

Birchfield said she has drawn eight or nine Classic pictures over the years, and her mom has drawn some for her. There are pictures about how she cried when she first got her braces and the time she cut her own bangs.

“It turned out really horrible,” Birchfield recalled.

Last year her husband Grant drew a picture depicting how he was stung by a bee and swelled up.

The picture might seem embarrassing, but Nicole said they are about memories.

“It’s us coming together and laughing together as a family,”she said.

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