Thanksgiving Traditions: 10 Ways Americans Make Memories and Give Thanks

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Written by Camille Lucy

Each year, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November. Many families still follow traditions that stem from the very first Thanksgiving, but others have created their own! Here are some traditions that are followed and carried on each year to celebrate this day of Thanks:

1 The Feast. One of the first things that comes to mind when we think about Thanksgiving is the food! Traditional foods play a big role in holiday celebration including turkey, stuffing, gravy, potatoes, cranberry sauce, cornbread and pie.  And part of the fun is including the entire family in meal prep!  

2. Travel. Family takes center stage when celebrations abound. For some, one of their favorite aspects of Thanksgiving is spending time with loved ones. Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year, as many drive or fly to be with those close to them. 

3. Parades. The New York City Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade features giant inflatable balloons that float between the skyscrapers, marching bands and performances. The first parade marched down Broadway in 1924, and has since grown to an event with more than 3.5 million spectators.

4. Football. In addition to watching the parade, many families enjoy watching football on Thanksgiving.  And some even play their own game outside! Football is one of most popular sports to watch in the USA and games being played on Thanksgiving dates back to as early as 1876, shortly after the game was invented! This year, as usual, the Cowboys and Lions are playing, as well as the Bills, Giants, Patriots and Vikings!

5. Wishbone. Breaking the wishbone is a tradition many families uphold.  families include breaking the turkey’s wishbone as part of their celebration. Two people each grab a side and break the bone apart while making a wish. Whoever breaks off the larger part of the wishbone will have their wish granted.

6. Paying it Forward. Part of giving thanks is appreciation for all we have, but it also includes helping others that may not be as fortunate. Some families volunteer to serve food at homeless shelters, some donate to shelters and others participate in food drives.

7. Homeland Helpings. Pilgrims were immigrants when they celebrated their first Thanksgiving, leaving everything behind to reinvent themselves in a new country. Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated for many immigrants, regardless of their ancestral land. New American families often transform the Thanksgiving table with flavors from their homelands. 

8. Friendsgiving. Friends + Thanksgiving = Friendsgiving! Friendsgiving combines the best aspects of this holiday with a great guest list! Usually celebrated in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, it’s a tradition to spend some QT with your closest pals.

9. Sharing Gratitude.  Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reflect on the year, surrounded by the love and support of family and friends. Some choose to go around the room and share something that they are grateful for.  It’s heart-warming to hear everyone talk about their favorite moments, experiences, people and places.

10. Quality Time. After the food is eaten, the table cleaned, and dishes washed, many families spend time relaxing together or playing games, inside or outside. Some may even choose to take a nap (thanks to tryptophan)! 

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate, remember our blessings, and to spend time with loved ones. There are so many ways to honor this holiday, and each family makes it their own and special to them. Despite all the differences, and the many traditions that may be adopted or followed, there is one thing that remains the same: there is always a reason to give thanks, including the priceless gift of life, laughter and love.  

Camille Lucy is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, Certified Reiki & Raindrop Technique Practitioner, Ordained Holistic Minister, Certified Meditation & Yoga Instructor, graphic and web designer, business consultant, and long-time animal rescue volunteer. She is also a writer, a Mother of 3 girls, an artist, a Life-and-Love Junkie, a Self-Expression and Development advocate, and – well, you get the point. She’s a lot of things, just like all of us. Camille is also author of, “The (Real) Love Experiment: Explore Love, Relationships & The Self,” and owner of the inspirational clothing line, LIT Gear, at Learn more about her and her adventure(s) at