Thanksgiving Traditions of Charleston Moms


We’re officially in the holiday season, and before we give Target all our money, we have the gluttonous pleasure of Thanksgiving with all of its varied familial traditions. Since becoming a mom, maintaining old and creating new holiday traditions for my family has become paramount. I want my kids to always feel the sense of comfort and belonging that go hand-in-hand with holiday traditions surrounding family and loved ones.

For many years, I lived overseas where Thanksgiving is, of course, not celebrated, so I, and the few ex-pats that I knew, often cobbled together our own version of Thanksgiving that incorporated aspects of our local culture. Thinking back on those memorable – and certainly unique – Thanksgivings made me curious about the various Thanksgiving traditions of my fellow Charleston mamas, so I recently asked the moms of FIT4MOM Charleston and other local mamas for their traditions. Family, food, and fun abound in Charleston on Thanksgiving Day!


Oscar Wilde once wrote, “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.” Food reigns supreme at Thanksgiving, and there is an abundance of food-related traditions to whet the appetite. Here is what the moms of Charleston are cooking up for Thanksgiving:

“My mom, cousins, and I got a lesson from my 96-year-old grandmother on how to make her stuffing/dressing. It’s pretty labor-intensive, so you need more than one or two lessons, so we’re all trying to get it just right. It’s the best in the world!” – Megan Bussell, Johns Island

Thanksgiving Traditions of Charleston Moms“Usually there is a kids’ table and now my kids sit at it. We go around at dinner and share what we are thankful for, and now Izzy [my daughter] is old enough to share. So I guess our traditions have stayed the same, but I’m seeing them from a different perspective.”  – Rachel Pratt, North Charleston

Originally from South Africa, Anushka Kapp said, “We don’t have Thanksgiving in South Africa, but I make traditional South African milk tarts and peppermint crisp tarts. I also make a South African corn bread and carrot and pineapple salad. We noticed our Christmas food does well in the neighborhood!” – Anushka Kapp, North Mt Pleasant by way of Johannesburg, South Africa

We have a large military presence in Charleston, and for many of our service members, Thanksgiving is less about the food and more about the sense of friendship, community, and esprit de corps:

“We have done Friendsgiving every year since I moved away. When I was on the ship, it was whoever was left that day, and we would each bring our favorite food from home. Since we moved to Charleston, our best friends come up to spend time with us, and we love our tradition! This year we will also have extra family in town, but at our house, it will still be Friendsgiving.” – Caitlin Guevara, active duty Navy, North Charleston


While many “pray that my [their] in-laws don’t visit,” many elect, either voluntarily or through benign passive-aggression, to visit family.

“We always go ‘HOME’ to North Carolina & have ‘true lunch’ at my parents’ house with my sister and brother-in-law and usually my mom’s entire side of the family! Then we go to lunch #2 around 3ish and do it all again with Josh’s entire family!! . . . my family = 20+ people & Josh’s family = close to 30! It is THE BEST TIME!” – Erica Turner, West Ashley

“We alternate travel every year to my parents in Massachusetts and my husband’s family. Since my husband is also from Miami, he likes to request key lime pie for Thanksgiving – we try to make it if we can find key limes. Obviously not traditional, but part of our tradition now!” – Rachel Nigro, Mount Pleasant

“We go out for Black Friday not to shop, but to people watch and remember my aunt because it was her favorite thing to do.” – Lee Lane, North Charleston

“Since we’ve been married, we switch off holidays. One year we go to my parents for Thanksgiving and the next year, we spend Thanksgiving here with his family. However, I love being with my family, because my mom and I wake up early and make breakfast and sit on the couch with our coffee and watch The Macy’s Day Parade all morning before cooking and having fam over. It’s my favorite morning of the year.” – Stevee Rose Martin, West Ashley

“We don’t typically celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving because family is stretched all over the East Coast. We take turns by rotating every three years: one with my family, one with my husband’s, and one where we don’t travel. This year my husband’s family has chosen to go on a cruise for it. When we are at home, we always watch the parade and eat pancakes. Brussels sprouts with bacon are also always served with the turkey.” – Heather Gilliland, Mount Pleasant

Thanksgiving Traditions of Charleston Moms“Growing up I remember always watching the Macy’s Day parade sitting on the blue floor pillows listening to my parents cook. Now I still watch the parade in the a.m. while getting things ready. We split the day between both families. Lunch at my in-laws, and we devise a Black Friday plan. Then off to dinner at my folks’ house. It’s a long day but so fun.” – Heather Varner, North Charleston


“One tradition that’s outside of the kitchen/home but that we’re SO excited to start sharing with our little is volunteering as a family! It’s a nice way to kick off the season of gratitude and giving! It could be at a food pantry pre-Thanksgiving, soup kitchen or shelter Thanksgiving morning prepping/serving meals, or like we’ll be doing as a family this year. . .being a part of the Charleston Basket Brigade!” – Laura Berthiaume, Mount Pleasant

We run a 5K on Thanksgiving morning whenever possible. It’s great to start the day in a healthy way before eating for the rest of it! We then spend the rest of the day cooking, watching the Macy’s Day parade and football, and getting things ready to decorate for Christmas.” – Me

Whatever your Thanksgiving tradition (or non-tradition!), I wish you all a joyous day filled with love and thankfulness!

What are your Charleston Thanksgiving traditions? Share in the comments below!

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Erin DiNicola
Erin and her active duty Army husband have a 5-year-old, a 4-year-old, and baby boy and girl twins! Erin is also the proud owner of FIT4MOM Charleston, part of the nation’s leading pre-and postnatal fitness program. A former US diplomat, Erin has lived and worked all over the world. She is a former nationally ranked 100m and 300m hurdler, a certified yoga and prenatal yoga instructor, and holds additional certifications in Barre, TRX Barre, and as an ACE group fitness trainer. On a daily basis, she aims to show her babies that women can be both soft and strong, and that one must never give up, no matter what!