Thanksgiving Traditions

Although Thanksgiving is celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada, it is also widely celebrated in six other countries around the world; Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Korea, Liberia and Switzerland. Unlike many other major holidays such as New Year’s Eve, Fourth of July, and Halloween, when people take to the streets to celebrate, Thanksgiving is much closer to heart, families and close friends gathering together to give thanks. Most families follow traditions that begun on the first Thanksgiving between the Pilgrims and the Native Indians, but the Thanksgiving celebration has lost much of its original religious significance; instead, it now centers on cooking and sharing a bountiful meal with family and friends. In fact many have their own traditions that they follow each year. Here are some of the traditions that have become synonymous with Thanksgiving.

Travel – Besides giving thanks, this holiday is also about spending time with family. Many people live far away from family and loved ones and travel long distances by car, train, or plane to be with them. Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year and usually people and families start their Thanksgiving journey a couple of days before and make their way back for the meal!

The Feast – Food is a large part of Thanksgiving celebration and it’s common practice now to include the entire family in the food preparation. Traditional foods include turkey (roast, baked or deep-fried), stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, cornbread, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. Many families serve pie for dessert at the end of the meal. The more popular pie flavors are pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato, blueberry and apple.

The Wishbone – Some families include breaking the turkey’s wishbone as part of their celebration. The wishbone is found attached to the breast meat in the turkey’s chest. After the meat has been removed and the wishbone has had a chance to become dry and brittle, then the person who happens to get the wishbone in their slice of turkey, chooses another family member to join them in making a wish as they each hold one piece of the breastbone. They make a wish and then break the bone. The tradition says, whoever ends up holding the larger piece of bone, will have their wish come true!

I pardon thee Mr. Turkey – Every year at Thanksgiving, the President of the United States is presented with a gift of three live turkeys from the National Turkey Federation. At a White House ceremony, the president traditionally chooses and “pardons” the National Thanksgiving Turkey allowing it to live out the rest of its life on a quiet farm. The other two are dressed for the Thanksgiving dinner.

Giving back – Many kind and generous people use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to help the ones less fortunate than them. Volunteers serve food at homeless shelters on Thanksgiving Day while others donate to shelters or participate in canned food drives.

Parades – Parades have also become an integral part of the holiday in cities and towns across the United States. Presented by Macy’s department store since 1924, New York City’s Thanksgiving Day parade is as big and famous as parades go, attracting some two to three million spectators along its two and a half mile route. The parade is televised to an enormous television audience. Macy’s Thanksgiving parade typically features marching bands from schools, performers, elaborate floats conveying various celebrities and giant balloons shaped like cartoon characters.

There are probably much more traditions that we haven’t talked about, only because many families have their own unique traditions/practices. Like taking a walk after the meal, playing a certain game, drinking a specific vintage of wine and so on.

What are some of your family’s Thanksgiving traditions? Share your favorite holiday traditions with us!


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