Kathie Lee Gifford shares Thanksgiving traditions: From prayer to ‘old-fashioned’ food

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Kathie Lee Gifford shared how she carries on her favorite family traditions while celebrating Thanksgiving.

Ahead of the holiday, the 69-year-old television personality welcomed Fox News Digital into her home in Nashville, Tennessee for an exclusive look at her holiday preparations.

Gifford said that she was “truly grateful” to live in Nashville, where she moved four years ago, explaining that it was “the right place for this season of my life.”

“And I think that brings me to Thanksgiving, which is my favorite holiday of the whole year,” she added.

The former “Today” host continued, “I enjoy them all. But this one has always been my favorite. I think that’s because it’s about gratitude.”

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Gifford told Fox News Digital that the holiday also has special meaning because she makes all the dishes that her late mother, Joan Epstein, taught her to cook.

“I do all the cooking, and it’s the only day of the year that I actually cook,” she said. 

“I got kicked out of Sunday school, I got kicked out of the [Girl Scouts] Brownies and I got kicked out of the America’s Junior Miss Pageant. So, you know, I don’t like rules, but I would be a fool not to make what my mother made every Thanksgiving flawlessly.”

— Kathie Lee Gifford

“I have never been a great cook,” Gifford admitted. “But you know who was a great cook?  My mom. My mom was an unbelievable cook. She couldn’t boil water when she was 19 and got married, but she learned to be an amazing cook. So she taught me and my sister and my brother all of her amazing recipes.”

The TV veteran added that she faithfully follows her mother’s recipes to a T. “I’m not usually a rule keeper,” she said. “I don’t like to follow rules.” 

“I got kicked out of Sunday school, I got kicked out of the [Girl Scouts] Brownies and I got kicked out of the America’s Junior Miss Pageant. So, you know, I don’t like rules, but I would be a fool not to make what my mother made every Thanksgiving flawlessly.”

Gifford raved about her mother’s turkey and her “amazing” sage and sausage stuffing. “I don’t eat pork anymore. So now I make it with chicken or turkey sausage,” she said.

Other Thanksgiving dishes include her mother’s “incredible yam souffle” and her mashed potatoes and gravy. “Excuse me. Put them up against anybody on the planet,” she said.

“They’re not really mashed potatoes. They’re whipped. You know what I’m saying? Who doesn’t love a good whipped potatoes? And her gravy? Old-fashioned way.” 

She continued, “Just add in the flour as you go along. None of this extra thrown stuff, it’s all made from the juices of the turkey.”

“I never invite people that I don’t absolutely love, and I never try to miss an opportunity to invite somebody who doesn’t have a place to go.”

— Kathie Lee Gifford

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Gifford said she loves to get up early to cook and fill her house with the scents of a Thanksgiving meal. “I love to overcook everything,” she added. “Not overcooked by temperature, but overcook what we need because I love to live on it for the next week and I love to sample it as I’m cooking.”

The morning show veteran told Fox News Digital that she keeps her gatherings to about eight to 10 guests. “What I love the most about Thanksgiving is that it’s small and intimate,” she explained. “I don’t ever have big bash Thanksgivings.”

The “God of the Way” author continued,I never invite people that I don’t absolutely love, and I never try to miss an opportunity to invite somebody who doesn’t have a place to go.”

Gifford shared that her late father, Aaron Epstein, had a generous Thanksgiving tradition that she has carried on. “My daddy used to bring people home almost every Thanksgiving,” she recalled. 

“He worked for The Washington Post in Maryland, and he had very, very early rounds. And it was not uncommon at all for my father to discover very early in the morning, somebody on the side of the road who’d broken down or somebody that missed their bus or a little old lady.”

“There were always stories, always stories,” she said. “And we used to tease, ‘I wonder who Daddy is going to bring home today?’ But I grew up with parents who taught me how important that is, that while you are counting your blessings, always be aware of the ones that have no blessings to count. And then be that blessing to them. So I like to do that too.”

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She continued, “I test the temperature with some of my friends and go, ‘Have you been invited anywhere right now?’ I have a friend whose marriage is breaking up. And I just asked her the other day, and she said, ‘I don’t have a place to go yet.’

“And I said, ‘Oh yeah, you do.'”

The Daytime Emmy Award winner said that she begins every Thanksgiving dinner with a prayer.
(Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

Gifford’s faith also plays an important role in her Thanksgiving celebrations. The Daytime Emmy Award winner said that she begins every dinner with a prayer. “And then we always go around the table and ask, ‘What are you most grateful for this year and what are you looking forward to in the next year?’”

Gifford continued, “I’ve found in my life…if you start every day with prayer and end it with prayer and say prayers all day long, the Bible says pray without ceasing. And how do we do that? You make your life a prayer.”

“And then we always go around the table and ask, ‘What are you most grateful for this year and what are you looking forward to in the next year?’”

— Kathie Lee Gifford

“And then the Bible also says, what is it that the Lord wants of you?” she continued. “And I think we should all think about this every single day. He wants us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”

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“Imagine a world like that if we did just that and that alone, what a completely different world we’ve been living in.”

Gifford also had a special message for her fans. “Happy Thanksgiving, everybody,” she said. “I want to wish you all a blessed holiday. I pray that you’re safe, you’re happy, you’re healthy.” 

“I pray that you’ll be well-fed and that you might open up your table to somebody who maybe hasn’t had a meal in a while or certainly hasn’t been invited to a beautiful feast.”

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