Every year, on the fourth Thursday in November, families gather to partake in Thanksgiving activities. Each family and individual has their own traditions and rituals that they associate with the holiday; whether it be breaking the wishbone or watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, many can agree that the holiday often goes underappreciated. People are already thinking of gift-buying, making plans to get their Christmas tree and listening to carols. Placing Thanksgiving between Halloween and Christmas gives it an unfair disadvantage, as many people choose to gloss over it to transition from one major holiday to the next. Thanksgiving, however, offers perks that other holidays do not. 

Unlike many other major holidays celebrated in the United States, Thanksgiving does not have traditional religious affiliations. The holiday originated from the autumn harvest feast that occurred between the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Native Americans. While some Christian individuals claim the holiday as a Christian holiday, Thanksgiving can be celebrated without focusing on religion. The religious significance of Thanksgiving day is not very present in many American households. Thanksgiving can be enjoyed by simply having a good meal with loved ones and celebrating all things to be thankful for. 

The number one thing people tend to think of when they think of Thanksgiving? Food! The meal associated with Thanksgiving is an integral part of the holiday, as people associate it with turkeys, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes and so much more. The variety of foods offered at Thanksgiving are notorious and can often only be enjoyed this time of year. A survey by the National Turkey Federation even found that 88 percent of Americans eat turkey on the holiday, showing just how essential certain foods are in relation to the holiday. Stuffing and cranberry sauce can often only be found on the grocery store shelves leading up to the holiday, so it is evident that this holiday is the only time these foods are able to be enjoyed. However, Thanksgiving meals can be adapted to fit into each family’s likes or dislikes. Whether it be a turducken (if those are still a thing), tofurkey or another Thanksgiving food variation, there are many ways people can adjust the holiday to their liking. The bounds of Thanksgiving foods are limitless, but for many, the holiday is looked forward to because of these time-tested foods that can only be enjoyed for this holiday. 

Thanksgiving also has a series of traditions that unite people around the country. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade started in 1924 and is still watched by families throughout the day, as they cook and catch up on lost time. In 2019, 22.1 million people turned their televisions on to watch the program, showing the unifying power of Thanksgiving traditions. For those who may not enjoy the cheesy events of the parade, Thanksgiving is also associated with football. The holiday often hosts some of the most famous football rivalries or top teams against one another. CBS documented 32.5 million viewers to have watched the 2019 Thanksgiving day matchup of the Buffalo Bills against the Dallas Cowboys, which was also the highest viewership for an NFL football game in 27 years. Thanksgiving day traditions continue to grow in popularity and bring people together as they partake in their individual at home activities. 

Most importantly, Thanksgiving day is a day for, well, giving thanks. It allows families to reflect on their past year and think about the things they have to be grateful for. Many studies testing the effects of writing down gratitude have found that it has positive effects on mental health, and even if it only recognizes the things one is grateful for one day a year, it can still be beneficial for reflection, especially a year like 2020 that has brought significant challenges. Thanksgiving also promotes a sense of giving back among many people, resulting in increased amounts of volunteer work. Additionally, communities will often host food drives and provide free dinners for the less fortunate due to the spirit of giving on the holiday.

When thinking of Thanksgiving, some people have feelings of dread due to the thought of family dinners and awkward conversations with relatives that you have not seen since last Thanksgiving. Everyone has stories of their prying family asking them about what they are doing with their life, starting unnecessary political debates or pressuring them about their future. While this time with family can often be stressful for people, these once-a-year family reunions often result in funny memories of the mishappenings of the event. For many, Thanksgiving also seems like a waste of a holiday, as they are already looking ahead to Christmas. However, no one can complain about time off from work or school, in addition to eating as much food as you want without fear of judgement. Part of Thanksgiving traditions can also be making that transition to Christmas. Often people get their tree the day after Thanksgiving, while still enjoying Thanksgiving’s unique events. 

Despite being frequently forgotten or glossed over, Thanksgiving still presents its own traditions and perks that solidify it among the ranks of major holidays. It allows people to reflect and recognize the things they have to be grateful for, in addition to giving back to their communities. Additionally, the food and activities are parts of the holiday that can only be enjoyed on this particular day. Thanksgiving is a fundamental holiday that can be enjoyed by all and leads to traditions that will be practiced among generations.

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