Thanksgiving is an exciting and festive time in the U.S. As an international registered nurse or medical technologist starting a new life in the United States, Thanksgiving presents the ideal opportunity to get involved with local traditions and cultural celebrations across the United States. This popular holiday is observed annually on the fourth Thursday in November, with gatherings of family and friends, a lot of good food, community events, sports games, and more. Read on to learn more about Thanksgiving and how to get involved in your community.
A brief history of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving traces its roots back to the autumn of 1621 when the Pilgrims, early European settlers, held a feast to express gratitude for their bountiful harvest and invited the Native Americans, who had played a vital role in teaching them survival skills, to join them. This event marked the beginning of a tradition that later evolved into the national holiday of Thanksgiving.
Giving thanks: The cornerstone of Thanksgiving is expressing gratitude. Families and friends gather for a festive meal, often extending invitations to those without family nearby or who may be experiencing hardship. Each person takes a moment to express what they are thankful for, promoting a sense of harmony and togetherness.
Traditional foods: Thanksgiving dinner typically features a roasted turkey as the centerpiece. Growing in popularity, some may opt to fry a turkey outside, creating a separate event to enjoy with family and friends, accompanied by hopefully beautiful fall weather. Accompanying the main dish of turkey, you'll find a variety of delectable side dishes that could include stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, dinner rolls, or sweet potato casserole. Pumpkin pie, apple pie, and pecan pie are popular desserts.
Fall decorations: Embrace the autumnal spirit by adorning your home with fall-themed decorations. Use colorful leaves, pumpkins, gourds, cornucopias, and wreaths to bring warmth and a festive atmosphere to your surroundings. To enjoy a fun outing in your community, check for neighborhood pumpkin patches that often give back to local businesses or support causes in the area.
Annual Thanksgiving events
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Millions of Americans gather in Manhattan, New York City, for the world-famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade hosted every Thanksgiving morning. Enjoy giant character balloons, elaborate floats, marching bands, celebrity performances, scenes from famous and upcoming Broadway musicals, and even a visit from Santa Claus at the very end. This iconic parade has captivated spectators since 1924. If you can’t watch in person, the parade is televised. If you are a dog fan, make sure to stay tuned for the National Dog Show that immediately follows the parade!
Football games: American football is deeply rooted in Thanksgiving traditions. The National Football League (NFL) hosts multiple games on Thanksgiving Day and the following days, attracting fans across the nation. Whether you attend a local game or watch from home, football adds excitement and friendly rivalry to the holiday.
Turkey trots: Cities and towns across the U.S. host races or 5ks referred to as “turkey trots” where community members join to walk or run as a group on Thanksgiving morning. Families and friends can register and participate together to get some steps in before enjoying their Thanksgiving meal. Funds from these events often benefit local food banks or non-profit organizations. If there are no official turkey trots in your area, assemble your own group to enjoy a nice walk together through your neighborhood or a nearby park.
Volunteer opportunities: Thanksgiving offers many opportunities to give back to the community. Consider participating in volunteer activities such as serving meals at a local shelter, donating non-perishable goods to food drives, or joining community service projects. Volunteering allows you to embody the spirit of Thanksgiving by helping others in need.
Friendsgiving: In recent years, "Friendsgiving" has become a popular celebration among friends, particularly for young adults and expatriates living away from their families. This gathering involves hosting a Thanksgiving feast with close friends, emphasizing the bond of friendship and creating a support network.
By familiarizing yourself with the history, traditions, and regularly occurring events associated with Thanksgiving, you will be better equipped to fully enjoy and appreciate this quintessentially American holiday as an international healthcare professional living in the U.S. Embrace the spirit of gratitude, engage in festivities, and experience the warmth and unity that Thanksgiving brings to communities across the United States. Happy Thanksgiving!