Can you already smell roasted turkey with stuffing and pumpkin pie? Can you hear the noise of football matches? Yes, you’re right, it’s Thanksgiving. Every year on the fourth Thursday of November Americans gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving. This tradition has been rooted in American culture for centuries, so if you are living and working in the USA or planning to do so, you should be aware of its importance and the impact it has on life and business in the USA.
Where does Thanksgiving come from?
What is considered as the first Thanksgiving in American history took place in 1621 in Plymouth plantations, where Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared a successful harvest feast. This was held to celebrate God and thank him for having guided the colonists safely to the New World. The celebration was then observed first as a religious tradition and, later, as a civil one. During the Civil War in 1863 Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday to be celebrated each November.
How is Thanksgiving celebrated?
Thanksgiving has now lost its original religious meaning for most American families. The focus of the celebration is now on spending quality time together and sharing a good meal. So what are the key ingredients of a good Thanksgiving meal? Turkey is the centrepiece of Thanksgiving and has become the main symbol of the holiday. It was probably not included in the first meal the Pilgrims shared with the Indians, but what is sure is that around 90% of Americans eat it on Thanksgiving. Either roasted, fried or baked, the turkey is usually accompanied by stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. In addition to cooking and eating which takes a large portion of the day, Americans like to gather together to watch football, participate in parades or volunteer. Many Americans will start their Christmas shopping on the day after Thanksgiving which is often referred to as Black Friday.
If you are living and working in the USA, make sure you participate in Thanksgiving celebrations and make the most of this experience. Giving the right importance to this event is central for you to integrate into American society, build friendships and make the most of your stay. Here are some tips on how to do that:
- Do not expect your American colleagues on Thanksgiving Day. Remember: it is a national holiday and offices are kept closed all day
- Thank your colleagues for their hard work, collaboration or companionship with a Thanksgiving card or a simple note on the day
- If you are hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, accept with enthusiasm any food your guests offer to bring
- If you are invited to dinner bring a gift and write a thank you note
- Show an interest in American football games as these are often a big part of Thanksgiving celebrations
- If invited to someone’s home, offer to help with the preparations. Thanksgiving is a family affair and almost everyone plays a role in getting it all ready, even guests
If you are planning to move to the USA or work with American counterparts you might want to improve your knowledge about American culture by attending a cultural awareness training programme like Living and Working in the USA. It will teach you more about American customs, traditions and values and help you develop the skills to build better relationships with your American colleagues.