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Thanksgiving is the favorite holiday of many Americans.  Originally planned as a day to give thanks for the year’s harvest, over the years it has evolved to become a day to enjoy good food, the company of family and friends, parades, and American-style football.  Thanksgiving in the USA is celebrated on the 4th Thursday in November, but in Canada it is observed on the 2nd Monday in October.

The Thanksgiving Day parade sponsored by Macy’s Department store has been a tradition for 88 years.  On Thanksgiving Day morning, thousands of people crowd the streets of New York City and millions of viewers huddle in front of televisions to watch the parade.  Rock stars, Broadway plays, marching bands, and giant balloons all are featured in the spectacle.  Even Santa Claus appears in the parade, signalling the start of the Christmas shopping season.

Figure 1: Giant balloon in the Thanksgiving Day parade.


Figure 2: Santa Claus in the Thanksgiving parade.


For sports fans, Thanksgiving Day is a day to enjoy American-style football.   Normally three professional football games are played on Thanksgiving, with times scheduled so fans can watch all three games on television.  Traditionally the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys have hosted the two daytime games, while teams in the evening game varies from year to year.  Serious football lovers enjoy the entire day in front of the television with a cold beer and their favorite snack foods.

The most important part of Thanksgiving for most Americans is a huge delicious meal.  Traditional Thanksgiving foods include turkey stuffed with a bread dressing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. For most Thanksgiving feasts, guests each prepare and bring different foods, making it fun to taste all the lucious treats.

When I was a child living in Pennsylvania, my sisters and I eagerly looked forward to the Thanksgiving feast at our Aunt Mildred’s home where our grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins gathered for the celebration.  Aunt Mildred spent a week preparing for the meal, cooking two turkeys, a ham, pies, cakes, and cookies.  All the women in our family brought relishes, salads, vegetables, and sweets.  As many as 25 people would squeeze together in Aunt Mildred’s huge dining room to give thanks and to enjoy the delicious food and the company.

After I had grown up, married, and moved to Maryland, my husband and I held Thanksgiving dinner in our home each year for my husband’s parents, brothers and sisters and their husbands, wives, and children.  My husband Tony was a wonderful cook.  He would rise at 5:00 on Thanksgiving morning to start cooking the 10 kilogram turkey.  Tony also made delicious turkey gravy and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.  My job was to make a vegetable salad and find tables and chairs and dishes to accommodate up to 15 people.  Our guests brought vegetables, breads, and desserts.  Although it was a lot of work, Tony and I enjoyed celebrating the holiday with family and friends in our home.

My husband’s brother Larry and his wife Sarah have hosted the family Thanksgiving dinner since Tony died.  This year I enjoyed Thanksgiving at their home with Sarah’s parents and her brother and his family, so our feast included 10 people.

Figure 3: Bob carving the turkey.
Figure 4: Pumpkin pie and apple pie.

Larry and Sarah cooked a large 11 kilogram turkey, mashed potatoes, and giblet gravy.  Sarah also made a delicious apple pie.  Sarah’s parents brought brussel sprouts and a cranberry salad.  Her brother brought a beet salad as well as parsnips with carrots and turnips.  I brought the traditional pumpkin pie.

Figure 5: Apple pie, pumpkin pie, and ice cream for dessert.
Figure 6: Relaxing after dinner.

I enjoy reflecting on how the Thanksgiving traditions have continued through the years.  Although many of our loved ones are gone, we have new generations and many blessings for which to give thanks. Perhaps this, in addition to the good food and the gathering together of family and friends, along with the parade and the football, is why Thanksgiving is perhaps the most popular holiday in the USA.

Gail Vallieres    December 2014