A Not-So-Traditional Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is perhaps the most American holiday, but the typical celebration doesn't make its way into every American home.


drawing by Rachel Tian

Thanksgiving is perhaps the most traditional American holiday, but not all Americans are accustomed to celebrating the day.

Rachel Tian, Staff Writer

With Thanksgiving approaching at the end of November, many American families are eager to gather with their relatives and celebrate the blessings and thanks they’ve accumulated over the past year. Roasted turkey, creamy mashed potatoes, seasoned stuffing, warm pumpkin pies, and other mouthwatering delicacies line the tables of this holiday dinner. It is a time to relax, fill your stomachs to the maximum, and appreciate American history with the people around you.

That’s the picture at every Thanksgiving, right? 

Truthfully, my family never has had Thanksgiving in the traditional manner, which is not surprising, given that my parents are immigrants from China, and I am the first-born in America. 

Most years, we end up cooking a regular Chinese meal or ordering pizza while watching a movie at home. The Thanksgiving long weekend feels like just another ordinary break, except that it often involves a lot of shopping, too. 

More than ninety percent of Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with large groups of friends and family, and only around four percent spend the holiday alone. With this overwhelming majority, it often seems like everyone is hyped about a huge celebration that I do not participate in. 

The lack of festivity can appear a little disappointing. Whenever people ask, “What are you doing over Thanksgiving break?” I usually answer by saying, “Nothing much. It’s just a normal weekend at my house.” This response is then followed by a “Really? You aren’t doing anything? That’s sad.” 

Whenever people ask, ‘What are you doing over Thanksgiving break?’ I usually answer by saying, ‘Nothing much. It’s just a normal weekend at my house.’”

Rewinding through Thanksgiving episodes of Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and other classic television shows, I see the characters gather together and have the most eventful holiday celebrations. A pang of jealousy often arises, and I think to myself, “What must it be like to gather with families, indulge in an ultimate feast, and talk about everything you appreciate?” 

Of course, I know that my family is not the only one that does not celebrate Thanksgiving; there are still millions of Americans who do not go through the whole experience, either. 

NASH senior Teresa Huang, a first-born child of immigrant parents, expressed similar feelings, as she has never lived the traditional experience, either.

“I’ve always wanted to just have one real Thanksgiving dinner,” Huang said. “I do sometimes feel like I’m missing out on the feeling of sitting at a big table and feasting together with a group of relatives.” 

Lately, I have been hearing my friends and classmates grumble about how they “don’t even like turkey” or “cannot stand another year of Grandma and Grandpa’s stories” or “just want to skip Thanksgiving and go Black Friday shopping instead.” These complaints do make me feel more positive about my holiday weekend. 

Sometimes, I regard this lack of celebration as a win. I mean, with most of my family halfway across the world, it is truly impossible to have those awkward dinner conversations or get frustrated over stuffing a giant turkey. And yes, I don’t have to hear the bustling of people all around the house, with parents chattering away at who-knows-what and kids running around frantically.

Another bonus is lining up early for those Black Friday deals; some lines for stores start the evening of Thanksgiving, and my family certainly has no trouble beating the crowds. 

In general, to me, Thanksgiving is just another day off school. It’s not that my family doesn’t appreciate one another; we just never got around to integrating it into our annual routine. Can I say that I am a little disappointed? Sure. But do I really feel bad for myself? No, not really. After all, I’ve never questioned the thankfulness that my family has for one another, however far apart we may live.

So whether you’re looking forward to a feeding frenzy and a full house or a lazy afternoon of peace and quiet, it’s a good time for all of us to look around our lives and say “thank you.”