The Best Thanksgiving Anywhere…Ever

Phil gets the bird's ready for roasting.

Phil gets the birds ready for roasting.

“Wow, that was the best Thanksgiving dinner anywhere…ever.”

That comment was overheard and much appreciated by the students and staff who started the preparation 14 hours earlier; and reflects on a tradition that started when Cherokee Creek Boys School opened eight years earlier.

From its first year, Cherokee Creek Boys School was committed to celebrating the traditional Thanksgiving feast with our own special flare. We wanted our students to feel the joy and excitement that comes with this holiday and to be able to create rich memories that they could take with them when they graduated.

The central ingredient of any Thanksgiving is the turkey. At CCBS we decided to create a ritual around the preparation by pit-roasting the turkeys.  This is a fabulous ritual that is present in cultures all over the world.  At CCBS we start with selecting student volunteers for a special “turkey team” who prepare the pit in advance of cooking the turkeys. Then at 1:00am early Thanksgiving morning these boys wake to build a bonfire over the pit and continue to feed a roaring fire for the next four hours. At the end of that time the pit is full of red hot glowing embers.

Once we have this bed of coals, we bury the turkeys (this year we had 5 turkeys) surrounded on all sides and top and bottom by at least 6 inches of coals. Then the pit is covered with dirt which seals in the heat and allows the turkeys to slow roast. Just before dawn, the turkeys safely roasting in the pit, the boys head back to bed, tired, a little smokey, and full of satisfaction for a job well done.

Six hours later, the “turkey team” is back to carefully uncover the turkeys. This is no time for a stray shovel blade to pierce the wrappings, so the students proceed with archeology-type precision. Once uncovered, the turkeys are brought to the kitchen where they are carved and presented as the central piece of a grand feast.

It is remarkable to watch the transformation as these boys take ownership and pride in this monumental task. They spent the night growing in friendships and memories, they see the spectacle of the feast and the shining eyes of those gathered to help celebrate, and they take pride in hearing the words of praise and knowing of their part in this meaningful tradition.

For more  about the process of pit roasting turkeys at Cherokee Creek Boys School, click on  Bear Tracks Newsroom for photos of this year’s Thanksgiving holiday celebration.

posted by Shaler Black Cooper in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments (7)

7 Responses to “The Best Thanksgiving Anywhere…Ever”

  1. camille Underwood says:

    I was there……and yes it was!!!!!!!

  2. A fabulous tradition with mouth watering results. Can’t get much better than that. Here’s to “The Terrific Turkey Team of 2011”.

  3. Beth Black says:

    Phil, you need to take credit for starting the tradition! Thank you for your dedication to making this event happen each year!

  4. Steve Kaufman says:

    Great tradition you have created Phil, and the turkey was delicious as well. I told Sam that we would probably be digging a hole in the back yard next thanksgiving.

  5. Cindy Palmer says:

    We weren’t able to be there, but were so glad that Dain got to be part of the Turkey Team. I’m sure that was an experience he won’t soon forget, and one that will find its place in his memories as “Most memorable Thanksgivings ever!”

  6. Elizabeth Jones says:

    It is no surprise to me that CCBS has created a fun and memorable Thanksgiving tradition for the boys. Thanks for your thoughtful and loving approach to life at CCBS!

  7. Ed Underwood says:

    Both the fellowship and the food were great. I wish everyone could have been there.

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