The First Family Thanksgiving

We know everything else about the Obamas, how about a peek at their Turkey Day traditions?


Being elected leader of the Free World—now there's something to give thanks for!

Intense national interest in your feelings about cranberry sauce, not so much.

You win some, you lose some. As the Obamas enter the holiday season as first family-in-waiting, Americans are eager for insight into their celebrations. After all, how they spend Turkey Day may give us a sense of the style, rituals and traditions they will bring to the White House.

"Traditionally, he's been spending Thanksgiving in Chicago with his family and friends," says Al Kindle, a field operator for Obama this year and in his 2000 race against Rep. Bobby Rush. "He likes to read, and he likes to hang out with the girls."

In years past, that's meant spending time with Michelle's family in Chicago. (Christmases have usually been spent in Hawaii with Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, and half sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng. Plans this year may depend on the scheduling of a private memorial service for his grandmother, who passed away just before Election Day.)

The University of Chicago Laboratory School, Malia and Sasha's soon-to-be-former academic home, gives students a three-day Thanksgiving break from classes. But individual classrooms may put on a holiday party or class performance (when I attended the Lab School, re-enactments of the Mayflower landing were de rigeur).

Hyde Park, the Chicago neighborhood where Obama will be this Thursday, tends to celebrate in a festive manner. The Obamas have frequently attended the annual Thanksgiving Day service at University of Chicago's historic Rockefeller Chapel. Chicago Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, who counts the Obamas as constituents, says the multicultural, interfaith gathering features songs and seasonal readings on thanks and is well-attended by the neighborhood's melting pot of students, faculty and residents.

"When he was a state senator, he came almost every year," said Rabbi emeritus Arnold Wolf, whose synagogue sits across the street from the Obamas' house. "Of course, now that's all over, which is a shame."

Farther south, Trinity United Church of Christ (yes, that one) has for years held an Umoja Karamu performance worship service, celebrating the harvest with 15-foot puppets dressed in African attire. It's a great service for kids, church members say. But the congregation is not counting on seeing the first family, after Obama's very public split in May with the church and its former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

The big unknown is who cooks the bird. Michelle is on record as saying that she's not exactly in love with the culinary arts. "I'm not somebody who has to cook," she told CBS's "Early Show" in October. "If there is somebody else who has got a good meal, we're there!" Maybe new granny-in-chief Marian Robinson, Michelle's mother, will do the honors.