Stories from our international boarding schools

Top 10 Thanksgiving traditions in the US

It’s the most wonderful time of the year in the US – a time for food, family, friends, and being thankful. Originating as a harvest festival, Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays in the US. People across the country gather together to share a meal and reflect on all the things they’re grateful for. But there’s much more to do during this beautiful time of giving thanks than just eating. From parades to shopping, running to volunteering – Thanksgiving is celebrated in a wide variety of ways. We’ve put together our bucket list for the ultimate US Thanksgiving celebration.

Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is now of the most famous holiday traditions in the United States. In New York City, thousands of people line the streets of Manhattan to watch. This particular parade is known for its giant inflatable balloons that float between the skyscrapers, high above the onlookers.

Break the wishbone for good luck

It may sound silly, but this is a real thing! After carving the turkey, the wishbone, a Y-shaped bone that carries much superstition, gets set aside to dry. Once the meal is over, two people make their wishes and break the wishbone. Whoever ends up with the bigger piece is said to have their wish come true and good luck for the upcoming year.

Eat a traditional Thanksgiving meal

No Thanksgiving Day would be complete without the traditional meal. Must-eats are: roast turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Green bean casserole has become a popular dish, especially in the Midwest. Completing the meal is, of course, pumpkin pie for dessert. After all of that it’s time for the next tradition. . .

Take a nap

After an afternoon filled with cooking and eating delicious food, many retreat to the couch for a mid-day nap. Turkey is well known as the culprit of this sudden onset of sleepiness, with its high levels of the amino acid tryptophan. While tryptophan is known to help release chemicals like melatonin (which makes you drowsy), it’s not entirely the turkey’s fault. Eating other foods that are high in sugar (like pie) also increase your tiredness. But with all the business of the holiday, everyone deserves some rest!

Share what you’re most thankful for

Thanksgiving is a perfect time to reflect on the year alongside family and friends. Whether it’s during the meal or while relaxing later in the day, go around the room and share something you’re especially grateful for. It’s wonderful to hear everyone talk about their favorite moments and experiences from the previous year.

Watch an American football game

Football is the most popular sport to watch in the US and the idea of games played on Thanksgiving Day actually dates back as early as 1876, shortly after the game was invented. Families and friends gather around to watch their favorite teams compete in one of America’s favorite sports. Or, to burn off some of those Thanksgiving calories, some families split into teams and play a game of football themselves.

Be grateful for Friendsgiving

Because most people celebrate Thanksgiving with their families, dedicating time to give thanks with friends has become equally important. Friends gathering together, aptly called “Friendsgiving,” is a newer tradition. It’s a time to share a meal and enjoy each other’s company before traveling home to join family.

Run a turkey trot

It may seem counterintuitive (or genius) to run a race on America’s biggest food holiday, but turkey trots are a trend across the US on Thanksgiving Day. The name derives from the turkey, the typical centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner. From 5K fun runs to half marathons, these races bring out runners, walkers and fans in local communities. It’s a fun way to earn and burn the calories consumed during the Thanksgiving meal.

Shop ’til you drop on Black Friday

Stores all across the country have some of their biggest sales the day after Thanksgiving. Now known as Black Friday, this day is almost a holiday in itself. While this shopping tradition has changed with the rise of e-commerce, people still stand in line for hours early in the morning to get great discounts and start their Christmas shopping.

Giving back

In the spirit of giving thanks and helping others, many communities across the US hold annual food drives that collect non-perishable packaged and canned foods for those in need. These organizations also host Thanksgiving dinners so that everyone has a place to enjoy a warm meal.

Each year at EF Academy New York, students from all over the world get to share in the holiday spirit. They share the traditional Thanksgiving meal together, go Black Friday shopping at a nearby mall, and decorate the halls for the holiday season. It’s a fun and festive way to share this important piece of US culture with our international community.

Immerse yourself in an international communityJoin us!

Share this article

Latest articles from Language and culture