Sliced turkey with cranberries.

First off, Happy Thanksgiving. This has always been my favorite holiday, even as a kid. 

It’s right in the middle of the festive season. See, Christmas is fun but chaotic. You have your gorgeous wrapping paper being ripped open, only for the tree to look empty afterward. The end of Christmas day is the start to an ominous countdown until New Year’s reminding you to get your life together. Halloween I like but don’t love. For one, South Florida is still pretty hot during late October. Halloween activities, although a good time, don’t have the same joy as the wholesome months of November and December. 

Since I can remember I’ve been shooting out of bed at the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving, making sure not to miss a moment of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. My parents would always have me tear up Wonder bread with mojo to stuff the massive turkey. We had an open door policy, no need to RSVP. Every year we would have cars lined up and down the block – neighbors, family, friends and even strangers turned into friends stopping by to share laughs and the love of food. My parents figured if you invite everyone, no one can get upset about the noise.

I think my adoration for Thanksgiving is cemented in the fact that it’s the only holiday that hasn’t changed with the times. Halloween has costumes and characters I’m just not “hip” to know, and Christmas brings on the newer generation’s version of toys. Gone are the days of ear-to-ear smiles for a $15 Barbie. Nowadays you’re looking at some $900 tech for a moment of happiness. 

But not Thanksgiving. My whole life, the turkey and fixings have been the same. 

Thanksgiving salt and pepper shakers. SAMANTHA DELLILO/Keys Weekly

The golden hues of fall décor remain unchanged. The Thanksgiving parade is still blowing up floats and hasn’t switched to projections or drones. On Thanksgiving, I get to let my inner ’90s kid come out, except now I can have a glass of wine. When I think of core memories’ for kids and adults alike, I think Thanksgiving plays an integral part. 

As someone with a passion for food, you know that plays a big part in this being my favorite holiday. We overshoot the amount to cook in this household. We believe there should be enough for you to grab as many helpings as you want. Plus, Thanksgiving leftovers are equally exciting, so it’s a win-win. 

Nowadays I prepare as much as I can the day before, so I can slow down and really appreciate Thanksgiving. I try to keep in mind all that I’m grateful for and be present with my family. Before the end of the holiday, make sure to ask yourself these two hard-hitting questions. “Am I a fan of canned cranberry sauce?” and “Should the Christmas tree be up before Thanksgiving?” For me, it’s “yes” to both of those questions, guilty. I truly hope all of you have a memorable Thanksgiving.

Samantha Dellilo has been in the Keys since she was 1 day old, so definitely consider her a Conch. Holding a passion for food since she can remember, while most kids were watching Barney, she was watching Emeril. "Being half Cuban and half Italian, food in those cultures is considered a love language. It's a total experience whether eating out or cooking." She's been with her other half, Marky, going on 17 years. The two met when they were 9 years old at Key Largo School. Samantha owns Florida Keys Eats, which is a blog of "must eat, must see, and must dos" from Key Largo to Key West.