In my opinion there is nothing more American than Thanksgiving, so if you want to get
the best out of your time in the U.S. start planning your holiday accordingly. Just keep in mind that stuffing yourself with stuffed turkey, pumpkin pie and other goodies is not all there is to it, however it's a big part of it. But I have not seen Americans concerned about where and with whom am spending time with, except during Thanksgiving. My professors, some classmates and an old landlord have always invited me over to their family dinners, because it is almost inimaginable to not celebrate with your loved ones.
But what is the big deal with this turkey day?
Well besides the HUGE amount of food this is a time for people to get together a regardless of religious or cultural background be grateful for what we have, and the people we have with us. But why did it came to be a national holiday? I wondered the same thing.
And the story goes like this...
when the first pilgrims came to the U.S. the first winter of 1620 was one of the toughest, killing at least half of the population so those who survived developed strong ties with the local Wampanoag indians of present day Massachusetts. The Indians taught them how to fish, hunt and get food so the next year the pilgrims had enough food to feed the community and thank them for their help through the winter. It was in a way a harvest festival. Wohoo!
For later generations of pilgrims it became a tradition to celebrate days of thanksgiving every fall for bountiful harvests, won battles among other good things. In the colonies after the independence from Great Britain Thanksgiving became a national holiday to celebrate their independence. Later Abraham Lincoln saw the amazing unifying potential of this holiday and declared it a national holiday to be celebrated the last Thursday of November every year.
It wasn't until the last century that other events such as the Football games, Black Friday, Thanksgiving parade and even the Turkey became such an important part of Thanksgiving. And speaking of important Thanksgiving stuff make sure you try all of the following:
-Mashed potatoes (American style)
-And TURKEY of course!
- There is the International Buddy Program Thanksgiving dinner on Friday Nov. 16, 6-8 pm in Coffman.
- Restaurants have interesting and yummy Thanksgiving packages, and the people there will mostly likely be in Thanksgiving mode and warm up to you. I've seen it happen at the Dallas airport Friday's on Hollidays (sad).
- Talk to people in your classes and find out who doesn't have a plan for Thanksgiving, they might be interested in getting together and sharing a meal, or they might invite you to their home to celebrate.
Here is a list of ideas based on what I have done during my 5 years in the U.S.
First year: Volunteer at a homeless shelter, meet people and bring a beautiful Thanksgiving to someone who would otherwise not have one. ;) It was a great way to meet amazing people, and experience the Thanksgiving spirt. There are many programs, but you can check out Salvation Army volunteer opportunities.
Second year: This year Thanksgiving was on my birthday and some friends of mine couldn't go home for the holiday so I learned to cook a Turkey, baked blueberry pie, and everyone of my five friends brought something to bake and cook at my place. We were each other's substitute family, oh! And I learned to trick my body into believing it's still hungry when it is really about to explode. Depending on what you like there millions of recipes online!
Third year: This time around my mom came to visit and a professor learned that we were just roasting some chicken at home at watching movies so she got upset and almost forced us to join her and her family. It was a blast, there was so much happiness and generosity in the air and I left their home 20 pounds bigger than when I entered. The best you can do is become good friends with people around you and let them know you don't have plans, and hopefully they will invite you.
Fourth year: My fourth year Thanksgiving lasted two weeks! I had a dinner with some family friends in Saint Paul a week before, drove down to TX to a Buddhist course and ate dinner on Thanksgiving with about 120 more people. It was a blast! And coming back I invited friends over now that I knew how to cook some Thanksgiving goodies.
Fifth year: This year I'll be in NYC and it will be LEGENDARY!