How Do People Celebrate Thanksgiving?

Loren Kerns/CC-BY 2.0

In the United States, people celebrate Thanksgiving with food, family, helping others and engaging in live or televised entertainment. Thanksgiving in the U.S. falls on the fourth Thursday in November, and recurs annually. Generally, people view Thanksgiving as a family-oriented event and begin holiday celebrations on Thanksgiving Thursday, although some families extend the celebration for longer.

Thanksgiving is historically the busiest travel holiday of the year. Each year, Americans travel to visit family members in cars, trains and by plane. Thanksgiving does not center around religious traditions, and instead emphasizes family and harvests. The Thanksgiving holiday revolves around food, which often includes a variety of traditional items. Dinner typically includes a turkey, along with mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy. This meal concludes with the breaking of a wishbone and making a wish. Sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and cornbread often accompany the meal. Desserts, primarily apple, pumpkin, pecan and sweet potato pies, follow decadent dinners. Families abstaining from meat and vegetarians substitute traditional meats with items, such as tofu, salads and other fruits and vegetables. While families dine privately, Thanksgiving contains public ceremonies and traditions, too. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, for instance, takes place in New York City every year. Additionally, the U.S. President participates in a turkey pardon, which involves receiving a live turkey and allowing it to go free.