Time to give thanks


When it comes to Thanksgiving, turkey may be the first thing that comes to mind. It’s the right picture, but it’s not complete.

Celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November every year, Nov 28 this year, Thanksgiving Day is a time for communal thanksgiving and lavish feasts. It’s about expressing your gratitude to the important people and all the good things in your life.

Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with much fervor and maintain many traditional customs. Here we introduce a few of the rituals Americans typically follow on this day.

Time for prayers and paying back

Thanksgiving Day has been associated with communal prayers in church and in homes for centuries. Attending church prayer services in the morning is the first step of many celebrators on Thanksgiving Day. The churches provide worship services and organize special events for the occasion.

Before Thanksgiving meals, some families gather together and read prayers to thank God for his kindness and the gifts he has bestowed upon them in the form of friends and family.

Some people also do voluntary community work on this day, as a way of paying back.

Family reunions and showing gratitude

Like China’s Spring Festival, preparing a big meal and bringing the family together at home is a long-standing tradition of Thanksgiving. Distances don’t really matter as relatives return home to be with their family, no matter how far away.

Undoubtedly, turkey is the main course of Thanksgiving dinner. Though there is no evidence to prove that turkey was eaten during the first Thanksgiving dinner, most agree that the dinner would be incomplete without it. A survey conducted by the US’ National Turkey Federation in 2012 shows that 91 percent of Americans eat turkey and more than 306 million kilograms of turkey are consumed on Thanksgiving Day.

Other dishes typically found on dinner tables in almost every house are pumpkin pies, corn, fall vegetables, olives, cranberry sauce, stuffing and mashed potatoes. At the meal, many families observe the ritual of taking turns to express what each member is thankful for.

Parades bring nation together

While feasts make Thanksgiving a festival for individual families, parades make it a carnival for the whole nation. Various parades are held in many cities to honor Thanksgiving. One of the largest is New York’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is currently called Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Started in 1924, more than 2 million people attend the parade every year.

Important features of the parade are themed floats, scenes from Broadway plays, large balloons of cartoon characters and TV personalities, and high school marching bands. The parade traditionally ends with a Santa Claus float, which marks the unofficial beginning of the Christmas season.

Football games as a highlight of the day

After-dinner rituals are just as important as the meal itself, and no after-dinner ritual is more important than the football game. The US’ National Football League has played a special game on Thanksgiving every year since its creation in 1920 (with the exception of 1939-1944 due to World War II). It’s referred to as the Thanksgiving Classic, and thousands of fans watch it with popcorn and chips in hand, either in stadiums or on television.

In 1863, a reporter jokingly said, “Thanksgiving is a holiday granted by the Nation to see a game of football.” It’s absolutely true.

Big day of discounts

While Chinese citizens enjoy an online shopping spree on Nov 11, Americans flock to physical stores just after Thanksgiving. The Friday after Thanksgiving Day is famously known as “Black Friday” because of the standard accounting practice of writing profits in black.

Many employers give their employees the day off as part of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, so retailers seize the opportunity to offer discounts and put items on sale. Hundreds of thousands of people take advantage of the opportunity to hunt for bargains. The sight of people waiting in long lines for shops to open on the morning after Thanksgiving Day is quite normal.