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Our Thanksgiving Tradition

Age Old Traditions

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines tradition as “ the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction.” Traditions are passed down through our parents, who followed their parents. Every generation starts something new which gets passed down and every generation tweaks an old tradition to fit their lifestyles. There are instances when we practice a long standing tradition whether we like it or not, even when it doesn’t make sense. When the question arises “Mom why do we do this?” The answer is usually “Because, it’s tradition, it’s what my mother taught me.” Traditions can have a strong superstitious hold on people and they fear making a change. On the other hand, there’s also that strong sentimental tie to family traditions which connects the newer generations to history and heritage. We have religious traditions, holiday traditions and food traditions that have been passed down through the generations. Our lives center around traditions.

Thanksgiving Tradition

The American tradition of celebrating a day of thanksgiving is very special. The practice of ceremoniously giving thanks dates back to earlier expeditions of the 1500s. With each survival and success Americans practiced gratitude. George Washington established a presidential Thanksgiving day and later President Roosevelt sealed an official Thanksgiving day as the 4th Thursday in November. The Thanksgiving Holiday is a great reminder to stop and consider all that we Americans have to be grateful for, wealth, health, diversity and prosperity. 

The Thanksgiving Meal

Now considering the “traditional meal” at Thanksgiving, this has made some evolutions. History points to a shared feast between Pilgrims and Native Americans, which included contributions on both sides. Main dishes would have included roasted deer and various kinds of fowl and fish. Side dishes included squash and corn and for dessert, a type of pudding. By the time the national holiday was established through the efforts of Sarah Hale, turkey became the main dish for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Why turkey? 

Roasted Turkey at Thanksgiving

There was perhaps a romantic notion that since the colonists might have served turkey on that “First Thanksgiving” the tradition should continue. Then there was the more practical reason that turkeys were more affordable and besides, they made a beautiful centerpiece for the feast. Thus it was established, roasted turkey surrounded by comfy traditional side dishes like green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing, roasted vegetables, bread and/or other various traditional sides completed the wonderful Thanksgiving meal. 

Diversity at Thanksgiving

With the passing of each Thanksgiving, and the growing diversity in America, Thanksgiving meals have been modified according to cultural preferences, which in some ways have made a full circle. Both the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people contributed to the meal from their own cultural traditions. Once again, a Thanksgiving feast might include dishes of beef, chicken, pork or fish prepared according to ethnicity.

Tamales at Thanksgiving

One Popular Mexican-American tradition at Thanksgiving is tamales. These would include chicken, pork, beef or vegetarian authentic tamales. In some homes savory tamales are the main dish while in others, hot tamales and roasted turkey are served side by side with Mexican and American traditional sides. Americans are accustomed to cross pollinating flavors and textures, salsa and cranberry sauce, or Creamy Pumpkin Tamales are a melting pot of diverse Thanksgiving celebrations for sure. 

Gratitude at Thanksgiving

Since the First Thanksgiving celebration, the goal was to appreciate Gods blessings of prosperity, peace and friendship. The meal represented a victorious harvest and a grateful people who survived the harsh elements of the season. The great American Thanksgiving tradition is a wonderful time to celebrate a great bounty of freedom, liberty, wealth and health. 

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