Thanksgiving: A Variety of Traditions

While Thanksgiving is not a holiday celebrated throughout the world, there is plenty of variety between families in tradition and celebration right here in the United States.  Learn about different Thanksgiving celebrations and maybe even pick up an idea or two of ways to add variation to your own traditions.

“Not every Thanksgiving in America is a folk-art painting. They are as varied as Americans themselves, and run the spectrum of emotion and experience—from as rural as watching Grandma slaughter the holiday bird by the barn, to the traditional with family football games in the yard, and to the modern with multicultural meals complete with eggrolls. It is a holiday for everyone—regardless of whether arrival to the United States was via the Mayflower, Ellis Island, international airport, or any other way.

It is a holiday steeped in traditions (which are either faithfully followed, radically ignored, or adapted to individual circumstances), memories and images. In Thanksgiving Tales: True Stories of the Holiday in America, 48 writers from across the United States share their individual stories and memories of Thanksgiving and provide insight into the variety of ways the holiday is experienced, celebrated, viewed and cherished by Americans. But, whether held in a country farmhouse, amid the frantic pace of New York City, or in a restaurant, there are a number of common elements. These stories reveal how seemingly simple things—like the passing of a tradition to the next generation, sitting next to Grandpa, favorite foods and recipes, or certain sounds, sights, and smells—can have special meaning and leave warm and indelible memories.

Some of the humorous and funny Thanksgiving stories describe chaos and mishaps of meal preparation, family arguments and first-time hosts—all disasters then, but now looked upon with laughter. Other inspirational Thanksgiving stories recount family traditions, meaningful moments, memorable guests and hosts, remembering those no longer with us and being alone for the day. There are even some stories about out-and-out hating the holiday.

Thanksgiving Tales is a reflection of Americans, as much as it is a look at the holiday. It is a testament to the importance of the holiday that Americans will go to great lengths for Thanksgiving—spending money to travel long distances or taking days to prepare meals, sometimes only to find themselves seated next to the weird cousin or sick all night from bacteria-laden food. Yet, it’s done all over again the next year.”

Brian Jaffe. Editor, Thanksgiving Tales: True Stories of the Holiday in America 

As an Australian who has been living in New York City for the last 16 years, I absolutely love Thanksgiving. Every single one of them has been wonderful. The reason? My wonderful American friends and relatives. I get very homesick sometimes because my immediate family is in Perth, Australia. Thanksgiving with my American relatives is always very special. Plus, we don’t have that holiday in Australia so it makes it extra special. I’m a comedian who travels all around the world and Thanksgiving is so important to me that I always tell my agents to turn down any work which would interfere. Making money and climbing the ladder of success is great, but it’ll never take the place of my wonderful New York family.

Jim Dailakis 

As Druids and Pagans, my family and I celebrate our thanksgiving on Mabon, the autumnal equinox. Alban Elved is a time of balance. As such, it is an excellent time of reflection as we head into the darker half of the year. As the busy summer winds down, the family comes together for a coming time of introspection in anticipation of the coming winter. This time of communion with family and friends allows us to celebrate the harvest. Another thing I enjoy is that the hunters in our family bring freshly prepared game to the feast. After we enjoy the meal, we sing Pagan chants and songs around the bonfire as the children make corn dollies. The best part of our Pagan thanksgiving is fellowship and love as we celebrate the blessings of the harvest.

Charlton Hall

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