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Thanksgiving: Origin and Traditions Across the US

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Thanksgiving is fun, it basically revolves around food, family and friends. Also, it’s a national public holiday, so it means there’s no school or work or anything to do other than eating and having fun!

And just like we did on Hallowe’en, we want to share with you some more interesting facts about this day! Not without our lovely characters wishing you a happy Thanksgiving before!

Lernin characters eating Thanksgiving meal, from lernin blog

So what’s this Thanksgiving thing?

Thanksgiving Day is a public holiday celebrated in the US and Canada. It was originally a harvest festival, thus the time of the year when it’s celebrated: November. Well, the fourth Thursday of November, to be precise.

It was celebrated for the first time (known as First Thanksgiving) after the first harvest of Pilgrims in 1621. Back then it lasted three days. Fortunately, now it’s only one day, otherwise, we’d have to use Black Friday to buy pants one size bigger. Fun fact: the first celebrations were held by Spaniards and the French.

Nowadays, it’s considered a very familiar tradition, a day to enjoy with your relatives. It’s the day when families gather together and enjoy one another while being saying thanks for all the good things in their lives! Although it’s not like the official thing, many families have their very own traditions, like sharing good memories of the year that is just about to end, making wishes for the following year…

How is Thanksgiving celebrated?

All that turkey craze… is it real?

Rachel from Friends with a turkey on her head on Thanksgiving, from lernin blog

When someone says Thanksgiving, the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind is probably… “turkey”! No wonder why, pretty much every North American series has one Thanksgiving episode per season: Friends, Gossip Girl, Sex and the City, ER, Gilmore Girls, Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family… and we could go on forever, really. And every episode has a common factor: the turkey.

Well, turkey is indeed the most common dish. In fact, Thanksgiving Day is also known as “Turkey Day”. However, there are alternatives to turkey. You can find ham, duck, goose. And in certain regions of the West Coast of the US, you can also find Dungeness crab as a main dish. Or even deer in Northern regions, or whale in Alaska.

Yeah, but what if you are vegetarian?

There’s options for vegetarians also: tofu, wheat-gluten or stuffed-squash, or really any vegetable, like tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers…

What will you find on every dining table for Thanksgiving?

So, now we know about what the main superhero of  this copious meal is, let’s move onto its sidekicks:

First, there’s stuffing, the Robin to our Batman. It basically consists of all the stuff that is put inside the turkey (or whichever animal or vegetarian substitute we’ve chosen). The most traditional stuffing is made with bread cubes, sage, onion and celery. But you can get as creative as you want here: fruit, cornbread, potatoes, raisins, sausage, oysters…

And then there’s always cranberry sauce and gravy, brussel sprouts, winter squash, sweet potatoes (often with a sweet touch, like brown sugar or marshmallows), green bean casserole; and bread rolls and biscuits. Those would be the most traditional side dishes, the ones you would most probably find in every home. However, you will totally find lots of regional alternatives like sauerkraut, mac and cheese, lasagna, mole, rice… honestly, the sky is the limit.

And, of course… dessert

Rachel from Friends' English trifle for Thanksgiving, from lernin blog

Disclaimer: Rachel from Friends’ dessert has nothing to do with reality. Yep, sorry, we know you maybe wanted to try that English trifle. The good news is someone actually cooked it and tried it just so you don’t have to!

However, dessert is also big on Thanksgiving Day. The most typical one is pumpkin pie, but apple pie, mincemeat pie, pecan pie or sweet potato pie are also quite typical.b

And of course, there’s always A LOT of food left, which means you get to enjoy this amazing food the day after!

So now we probably have made you super hungry, call your friends and organise your very own Thanksgiving Day dinner!