Thanksgiving Traditions in the United States

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Thursday, Nov 28 2019 by

Thanksgiving in the United States is a time for people to get together, eat too much turkey and pumpkin pie, reunite with loved ones, remember all they’re grateful for, and continue time-honored traditions such as making grandma’s famous apple pie, watching the Thanksgiving Parade, and napping on the couch while the Lions are on TV.

Plymouth Rock

The tradition of Thanksgiving in the United States started in Massachusetts in 1621.

A year earlier, the Pilgrims arrived seeking religious freedom and a new place to live without political and religious interference from other groups in England and northern Europe. The settlers of Plymouth Colony received significant assistance from the Native Americans during their challenging first year, and the two groups gathered together for a feast of thanksgiving.

Since 1863, Thanksgiving has been a national holiday, and since 1942, it has been held on the fourth Thursday in November.

A giant rock marks the spot where the Pilgrims decided to settle, which has led to the area being nicknamed “Plymouth Rock”. It is now anchors an entire area of Pilgrim-centered tourist attractions.

Plymouth Rock (Birds Eye)
Plymouth Rock

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

While the grown ups are putting the turkey in the oven and preparing for the feast, the younger family members often gather in front of the television to watch the nationally televised Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade live from New York City.

The parade, sponsored by the New York-based department store, has been a Thanksgiving staple since its debut in 1924.

Large balloon characters are a major feature of the parade, and the unpredictable New York fall weather can provide for some unexpected excitement as the balloons take on a life of their own going down the street.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Logo (StreetView)
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Logo

The parade starts on 77th Street and Central Park West, and goes 2.5 miles through the city to end at the New York flagship Macy’s department store in midtown Manhattan.

Macy's (StreetView)

Black Friday Shopping

A more recent American tradition has been Black Friday, the official kickoff of the Christmas shopping season.

Traditionally, retailers have door buster sales and crazy early openings to attract customers and make a fun event on the day after Thanksgiving.

In more recent years, retailers have been providing online and even in-store shopping opportunities for those who prefer to bargain hunt than eat extra pie or watch football after dinner.

The Mall of America is the largest mall in the United States, which makes it perfect for Black Friday shopping. If door busting isn’t your thing, you can spend time at the mall’s movie theater, aquarium, amusement park, or one of the many good restaurants on site.

Mall Of America (Birds Eye)
Mall Of America


Many Americans have a tradition of watching football before or after their feast, and there are always multiple games to choose from. Two teams have a tradition of playing at home on Thanksgiving.

The Detroit Lions have played a home game on Thanksgiving since 1934. Fans now brave the often frigid Michigan winter weather to watch their home team play at (indoor, thankfully) Ford Field in downtown Detroit.

Ford Field (Google Maps)
Ford Field

The Dallas Cowboys have been playing Thanksgiving home games since 1966. Cowboys fans would miss their mother’s funeral to attend a home game at AT&T Stadium, the new home of the Cowboys. This year, the team will face off against the Buffalo Bills at 4:30 eastern.

AT&T Stadium (StreetView)
AT&T Stadium

Whether your Thanksgiving Day traditions include recreating grandma’s stuffing, watching football on the couch after a delicious meal, or something wild and crazy, what matters is that you have an opportunity to reflect on your good fortune, break bread with those you love, and make wonderful memories to cherish for years to come. Happy Thanksgiving!