Thanksgiving in the USA is meant to bring family and friends together over a big meal to express gratitude and thanks. Historically, the holiday commemorates the unity of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, who gathered together in 1621 for a feast symbolizing peace and goodwill between their cultures. This autumnal dinner became a tradition over the years and is now a national holiday, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of every November with a typical turkey dinner and pumpkin pie.
The turkey has become the symbol of Thanksgiving and represents the wonderful bounty of plants and animals native to the United States. Fun fact: every year at the White House, the President conducts a ceremony to “pardon” or show clemency to a live turkey who will be spared from becoming dinner on the holiday. This ceremony celebrates the turkey and has been a popular event for presidents in recent years. Check out President Obama pardoning two Turkeys, Tater and Tot, in 2016.
Everything’s bigger in America
On Thanksgiving, that’s very true! Thanksgiving is about giving thanks but it is also about having an extravagant meal. Roasted turkey with stuffing is the iconic main dish for the holiday. It is often served alongside mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole and dinner rolls – to name a few. If you are hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, you are typically responsible for cooking the turkey and one main side dish. Guests are often expected to bring a side dish, dessert, or beverage of choice. Thanksgiving dinners typically take place in the late afternoon, as early as 3pm and as late as 7pm. This filling meal tends to make people feel very tired and it is a common myth that the Thanksgiving turkey in particular makes people sleepy. It’s not unusual to find elder relatives of the family fast asleep on the couch after dinner.
These days, Thanksgiving dinners are taking place earlier and earlier to accommodate “Black Friday” shopping. “Black Friday” is known for its “too-good-to-be-true” doorbuster deals and early morning chaos. Shoppers will line up at their favorite stores as early as 2am to snag a good deal. Many retailers now open their doors the night of Thanksgiving to get a jump-start on the holiday shopping season in anticipation of Christmas.
In true American fashion, eating lots of food, taking a nap and then shopping for incredible deals on electronics in the wee hours of the morning makes this holiday an unforgettable experience for international visitors. As an international exchange participant, this is an opportunity to learn about American history while enjoying the feeling of gratitude! Reach out to your colleagues or supervisor to find out if you can join a traditional Thanksgiving feast.
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