Why Family Traditions Are Even More Important This Year

Photo: Getty Images

As astutely pointed out by the cast of Saturday Night Live, venturing home for the holidays can be tense at the best of times. One editor shares her thoughts about why now more than ever it is crucial to focus on togetherness (and maybe leave certain political views at the door).

SNL Target Skit. Photo: Will Heath/NBC

As is true of many American households, growing up in my Ohio home football was as integral a part of the Thanksgiving experience as the turkey—depending on who is cooking perhaps more so. Where kids who celebrate Christmas (I am Jewish so I was not one of them) fondly recall waking up before the sun on the morning of the 25th in anticipation of the mounds of gifts gathered below the tree, I remember getting dragged from my bed on the morning of Thanksgiving as my dad yelled about bundling up for Tusch Bowl.

What, you may ask, is a Tusch Bowl. Well, I should first note that my last name is Tuschman (becoming clearer now?). As you may have guessed, “Tusch Bowl” is our annual morning-of-Thanksgiving football game, a gathering of my brothers, father and cousins that has been a tradition in my family since my dad was a boy. Everyone, and I do mean everyone—girls, kids, moms—is encouraged to participate, even if it is only for one play. Regardless of athletic ability, speed, how many passes are dropped or touchdowns scored, it is always a good time. There was the year my fully grown cousins showed up in their childhood little league (yes, little league) uniforms, looking like a scene from Honey I Shrunk My Clothes. There was the year we realized my 8-year old nephew had a decent arm and the year my 30-something–year-old girl cousin outplayed everybody, including her very athletic brothers. One year, a cousin’s husband accidentally took out my dad in an overzealous move that took my then-in-his-60s father out of the game (I swear dad still holds a grudge), and one winter it was so cold none of us could feel our hands. Perhaps my funniest memory was several years back when my then-college-age cousin went out big the night before and woke up the next morning deeply hungover. He was told in no uncertain terms by his father that not playing was not an option. He threw up on the sidelines.

Every year we woke up early, dressed ourselves in layers to combat the cold of a November day in Ohio and showed up. Every year, we laughed, ran our hearts out, made a few new bruises and later limped our way to the Thanksgiving dinner table. Every year, we played.

In the last several years, there have been a few Thanksgivings that one of my brothers or I have not been able to come home for—life obligations, significant others or work getting in the way. This year however, we will all go back to Ohio, the holiday coinciding with my father’s 75th birthday.

A couple of weeks ago, in anticipation of us all coming home, my father sent an email to my brothers and I, letting us know that we would resume the Tusch Bowl tradition on the morning of November 24th, along with all of my cousins, their kids and my oldest brother’s children. My father made sure to note in the letter that he hoped this next generation would continue the Tusch Bowl tradition. He also let us know that this year he planned to come in for a few plays but that after that he would watch from the sidelines, rooting the rest of us on as we competed for nothing more than bragging rights. He told us this would likely be the last Tusch Bowl he would play in, asking in jest that we retire his jersey after the game. (No, there are not actual jerseys, we aren’t THAT crazy.) I have no doubt my father will be a fantastic cheerleader-slash-coach for many Tusch Bowls in the years to come, but his choice to step out of the game as a player certainly feels like a milestone.

What I’ve decided, at least for myself, is to try...to take this one day, maybe this entire weekend, off politics.

Perhaps I’m thinking about all of this more in light of the recent election and how many families will feel tension at the dinner table as they pass the gravy. It’s a strange time in our country, a strange time in our world, and there is really no way around that stress leading to family arguments once everyone has been shoved into a home together and stuffed full of food and perhaps drinks. I don’t always agree with my father when it comes to politics (although often I do) but I respect him very much.

I imagine someone who shows up to Tusch Bowl this year won’t agree with my politics, and I may find their opinions absurd. What I’ve decided, at least for myself, is to try to throw a perfect spiral and not ask. To take this one day, maybe this entire weekend, off politics. I’m looking forward to it actually. It will be a much-needed detox from the last few weeks, even the last year. Maybe this Thanksgiving, more than ever, should just be about great food, great memories, and—of course—football.