Thanksgiving traditions vary for different families

Atop a traditional Thanksgiving table lies a turkey and silverware for the upcoming feast.

Our Thanksgiving Table/Didriks/Flickr/CC by 2.0

Atop a traditional Thanksgiving table lies a turkey and silverware for the upcoming feast.

Supermarket aisles, once holding dozens of turkeys, will be completely cleared out in just a couple of weeks. Mashed potatoes gone from the hot bar, pumpkin pie sales at their yearly high. For many, a large feast eaten with family encompasses the spirit of Thanksgiving. In reality, many people have unique traditions during this holiday or simply don’t partake in it at all. 

Celebrated each year on the fourth Thursday of November, Thanksgiving commemorates the historical autumn harvest feast between American settlers and Native Americans in 1621. Thanksgiving reflects America’s increasingly diverse population, with different ethnic foods and traditions being a part of many families’ celebrations.

For Grace Xu, a senior at Carlmont High School, Thanksgiving is celebrated for her family by making and eating traditional Chinese-style buns. 

“Every Thanksgiving, we buy buns, make a special sauce, and roast and slice a duck from a Chinese market,” Xu said. “Depending on the year, my family will also eat hot pot. We buy the raw ingredients and make it that way, and it’s delicious.” 

But that doesn’t mean traditional Thanksgiving foods disappear entirely. Sides like pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and butternut squash are all considered essential at a Thanksgiving dinner. The fall is their prime harvest time, and families like Xu’s don’t disregard it. 

“My family and I still celebrate some aspects of an American Thanksgiving. We drink apple cider and make pumpkin pie, but I love our tradition of a more cultural Thanksgiving with my family,” Xu said. 

About 85% of the population partakes in some version of a typical Thanksgiving feast. For the rest, like sophomore Ela Kulkarni and her family, Thanksgiving is merely a relaxing couple of days off of school or work. 

“Thanksgiving has never really been a significant holiday for me, more of just another break. Not everyone in my family eats meat, so a traditional turkey meal is not something we do. Some years, we invite friends and have a sort of potluck. We don’t eat traditional Thanksgiving food, but it’s fun to celebrate it in our own, more chill way,” Kulkarni said. 

Not only do some Americans ignore Thanksgiving’s typical traditions, but so do those from different countries who have moved to the United States. Many of them disregard Thanksgiving as a whole.

For Fiona Taylor, a member of Belmont’s community, Thanksgiving gives her and her family time to take a visit to Tahoe, but that’s about it. 

“I grew up in Australia, and my husband is from the UK, so I never grew up celebrating it, and now living here, we don’t do much for Thanksgiving,” Taylor said. “I take my children up to Tahoe for the break, but we eat a pretty normal dinner.” 

Despite people like Taylor, nearly a billion dollars is estimated to be spent on buying turkeys for Thanksgiving in 2021. In 2020, Americans consumed 5.22 billion pounds of turkey, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Still, Thanksgiving has more meaning than just the food.

For sophomore Prithvi Dixit and his family, Thanksgiving is more of a time for family bonding and not about eating the perfect feast. His entire meal is homemade, save for killing the turkey. 

“We mash our own potatoes, and some years we’ve even gone apple picking and used the apples for the meal. My favorite part of my Thanksgiving every year is making homemade ice cream,” Dixit said. “Although it’s not a traditional part of the meal, it’s fun to do with my family, and it’s so much better than pumpkin pie.”