Non-traditional ways to celebrate Thanksgiving

Jenna Taylor, Staff Writer

The most typical American way to celebrate Thanksgiving is for family and friends to gather for a feast. A traditional Thanksgiving meal includes all the fixings — turkey, stuffing, mac and cheese, green beans, cranberry sauce and lots of pie. According to the Pew Research Center, 89% of Americans plan on celebrating Thanksgiving with family members. While this way of celebration is tradition for most American Thanksgiving Day celebrators, there are other ways people like to spend their Thanksgiving. 

For many Indigenous people, Thanksgiving has an entirely different meaning. Thanksgiving represents tragedy and loss and the strength of their Native American ancestors. To quote tribal citizen and Cheyenne River Youth Project leader Julie Garreau, Thanksgiving is “a day of mourning for her people.” In an interview with USA Today, Garreau said she celebrated her past holiday break by “[making] buffalo roast and pumpkin soup to honor Indigenous history with foods that Indigenous people would have eaten.” Lastly, when Garreau was asked by USA Today what Americans could do to respect Native Americans, Garreau responded, “get educated and learn the real history of Thanksgiving. Native Americans in South Dakota have long been trying to change school curriculums to reflect the Indigenous history more accurately and have been repeatedly shut down by State legislature.”

Another way American friend groups like to celebrate Thanksgiving is through a celebration commonly known as “Friendsgiving.” According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the earliest print found using the term “Friendsgiving” dates back to 2007, which shows up on informal tweets and UseNet’s posts. Friendsgiving is similar to how most American families celebrate Thanksgiving — with a huge feast. For Friendsgiving, friend groups of all sizes congregate for a potluck-style meal in which each friend brings a food or drink item. Then all the friends sit down and eat together and enjoy each other’s company, talk, play games and take pictures. 

From my experience as an only child, I have had seemingly untraditional Thanksgiving holidays. We have a small family of three, which does not require the large amounts of food that a typical Thanksgiving feast requires. On a typical Thanksgiving at my house, my dad can be found watching football on the sofa, my mom can be spotted in the kitchen for hours on end and I will be sleeping in all day. Sometimes we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day with extended family members, but those celebrations usually last at least a few days before the holiday and a few days after. During the first Thanksgiving of the pandemic, the only thing I did was wait in the Whataburger drive-through line and hide in my room, binge-watching “Stranger Things” for the third time. 

It does not matter how you spend Thanksgiving. It can be a big production with lots of food and family or as simple as a Whataburger run and a movie marathon.