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Thanksgiving is a (North) American holiday, celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November every year. Most people get one or two days off work or school to celebrate with family or friends, and it is considered to mark the end of fall and the beginning of the Christmas holiday period. Many people use Thanksgiving as a time to reflect on the good things in their lives and give thanks for them, and also to spend time with loved ones, while eating traditional meals together.

History and controversy of Thanksgiving

But the history of Thanksgiving is decidedly controversial. It goes back to the early 1600s, when Europeans travelled over to America to start new lives.

The Pilgrims (a group of European settlers) were struggling to grow enough crops to harvest and sustain themselves. A group of Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to do this successfully. In 1921, the Pilgrims invited the local Native Americans to join them for a feast as a way of giving thanks… This was, of course, the first Thanksgiving celebration. Which, if viewed without context, seems like a fairly nice reason to have a holiday.

For many, though, Thanksgiving is inseparable from the context surrounding its origins. For some, the celebration symbolizes the culmination of a bloody subjugation and conquest over Native Americans at the hands of white European colonists. The holiday itself is fraught with cultural appropriation and frequently whitewashed, all of which has lead Professor Robert Jensen of the University of Texas at Austin, to state: “One indication of moral progress in the United States would be the replacement of Thanksgiving Day and its self-indulgent family feasting with a National Day of Atonement accompanied by a self-reflective collective fasting.” If you’re interested in learning more about this perspective, read the article here.

There are two sides to every story, and if you do celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s important to educate yourself on all the aspects of a Thanksgiving that has implications for Native Americans to this day.

What does it stand for now?

For the majority of modern-day Americans, Thanksgiving is just that, a time for giving thanks. They reflect upon the past year and all the reasons they have to be grateful to other people or for the good fortune they have received. Families gather together to have a glorious feast with delicious seasonal produce and to spend time with one another, reminiscing about the year, or playing games. Although most widely celebrated in the USA, thanks to migration, many American migrants have brought their celebration to their new countries.

Find out more about versions of Thanksgiving culturally rooted in other countries here!

Traditional Thanksgiving celebrations

So what are some traditional Thanksgiving celebrations that you could try out this year? Anyone familiar with the festival, will recognize this first one…

The food

A family gather around for a traditional Thanksgiving celebration with a feast

Yes, Thanksgiving celebrations in America have given rise to many traditions… But none more beloved than the glorious Thanksgiving meal! Most traditionally the main meal consists of roast turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and gravy.

Another popular dish that was invented by Dorcas Reilly from the Campbell Soup company, first gained popularity in the Midwest but has spread across the country (and now the world) – green bean casserole. The “official” recipe includes mushroom soup (preferably Campbell’s, of course), green beans, and french fried onions.

For dessert, nothing says Thanksgiving celebration more than a homemade pumpkin pie.

The President and the turkey

Do you know this funny traditional Thanksgiving tradition already? Imagine it: The scene is the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation. The date is sometime in the 1940s, when the ceremony first kicks off. Representatives from the National Turkey Federation present the President of the United States with a turkey each year, to be slaughtered and eaten. Skip forward to the 1970s, however, and the tradition is up for a change. Then President, George H. W. Bush, decides to grant an official “pardon” to the turkey, meaning it can go and be free and live out its natural life span without fear of being eaten. Lucky turkey! Every president since has carried on this tradition.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Another traditional part of the Thanksgiving celebrations is tuning into to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The annual parade, held in New York is the world’s largest, and is televised live for people who can’t physically be there, to watch at home.

Black Friday

Probably the most recent ‘tradition’ that is linked to Thanksgiving celebrations is what comes the day after; Black Friday. Since at least 2005, Black Friday has been the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States, with many stores offering highly discounted goods. This is a tradition which has spread to South America and Europe in recent years and seems to be growing increasingly popular.

Alternative ways to celebrate Thanksgiving

A family gather around a kitchen island covered in food chatting and laughing during Thanksgiving

Tired of the traditional? Or maybe you’ve decided you don’t want to celebrate in the old ways due to the day’s history and current implications? Here are some different ways to celebrate instead.

#1 Have a communal birthday party!

For many families who are scattered over the country (or even the world), Thanksgiving can be one of the few times everyone gets to see each other, and so birthdays are often missed. Especially since the start of the pandemic. Why not take this opportunity to celebrate everybody’s birthdays, all together, with cake, candles and singing?

#2 Turn giving thanks into a game

One great alternative Thanksgiving celebration is gathering your loved ones together and, before you eat, asking everyone to write down a few things they are grateful for over the past year. Put the “thanks” into a bowl. After the meal, take it in turns going around the group and guessing who wrote which note. It’s a lovely way to remind everyone of all the good things that have happened and gives everyone something to talk about.

#3 Take a trip

One way to be sure to make your alternative Thanksgiving celebrations decidedly different is to take a vacation to another country. As the USA is the only country where it is celebrated at this time, jetting off to another continent is a great way to escape and unwind.

If this is the idea for you, check out the best Places to Visit in November 2021

#4 Host Thanksgiving in pajamas

There is a lot to think about when hosting a traditional Thanksgiving meal, so why not take the hassle out of deciding what to wear and dressing up?

Let all your guests know to come in their pjs, and they will be thankful for their elasticated waistbands by the end of it!

#5 Giving not gobbling?

Feel like giving rather than gorging? Collect together a box of non-perishable items and take them to your local food bank or soup kitchen. You will be helping out those in need and can spend the rest of the day in whichever way you please.

#6 Host a Friendsgiving

Take the time to celebrate (and thank) your adopted family (besties) by hosting an evening of fun and food. We’ve got more tips on hostings an unforgettable Friendsgiving right here.

Happy alternate Thanksgiving!

A woman eats a taste of the Thanksgiving dinner offered by her partner

However, you choose to mark the day, we wish you lots of fun and hope you found some alternative ways to celebrate Thanksgiving you love. If you’re still in need of Thanksgiving inspiration, check out the articles below.

It’s that time of the year again! You and your kin huddle around the table, bearing bright smiles on your faces as you feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. It’s been a great year, with its loops of challenges and victories, but not without blessings, which includes the food on your plates. And after the main dishes have been served, it’s time to finish off with a bang. If you’re looking to impress your family until the last spoonful, don’t worry; these 10 thanksgiving desserts will surely curb any sweet cravings.

Thanksgiving Desserts #1
Berry Merry Cobbler
Thanksgiving Desserts

  • Assorted berries
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 sugar
  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 1 box of corn muffin mix

This no-fuss thanksgiving dessert can be served in individual skillets or in a giant dish, according to your desire. The directions are simple; toss berries, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and flour into one convenient bowl. In another bowl, mix the corn muffin batter, egg, and butter together. Sprinkle this mixture over the berries. Bake until crust is golden brown and cool for ten minutes before serving.

Thanksgiving Desserts #2
Pumpkin Cookie Cheesecake
Thanksgiving Desserts

  • 12 butter cookies
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 15 oz. pumpkin puree
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • whipped cream for serving

Thanksgiving won’t be complete without a pumpkin pie, so why not upgrade it and turn it into a cookie-crust, easy-to-bake pumpkin cheesecake? Ground cookies in a food processor and add butter, sugar and salt until all is well-combined. Press it into a 9″ pan and bake until edges brown. Meanwhile beat cheese, sour cream and light brown sugar with an electric mixer. Add eggs. Add pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Pour the batter onto the crust and bake until edges are set. Leave the cheesecake at least one hour in the oven before taking it out to chill.

Thanksgiving Desserts #3
Good Ole Apple Tart
Thanksgiving Desserts

  • 3 large apples, cut into 1/8″ inch slices
  • 1 box Dutch spice cookies
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 white egg
  • 1//4 packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. apple spice or cinnamon
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/4 salt

Nothing is as fragrant as a warm apple tart. Toss apples, brown sugar, salt and spices in a bowl. Toss until the apple slices are soft. Ground cookies in food processor and add melted butter, egg whites and 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar and half-a-teaspoon of salt. Press the cookie mix in a 10″ pan. Bake until edges brown.

Stir cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in a bowl and spread it into the crust. Drain apples and arrange them in a circular pattern, outside in. Bake until apples are tender. Serve at room temperature.

Thanksgiving Desserts #4
Pumpkin Mousse
Thanksgiving Desserts

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 15 oz. canned pumpkin
  • 3 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tbsp. dark rum
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. powdered gelatin

We’re all about easy breezy thanksgiving desserts. Whisk the yolks with 3/4 cup of cream and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Stir it over medium-low heat until thick. Transfer to a bowl over ice to cool down. Stir vanilla, pumpkin, spices and salt to the egg mixture and with rum and the gelatin mixture. Beat 1/2 cream into peaks and fold it into the mixture. Leave overnight. As for the remaining cream, beat it until stiff. Put it together by alternating layers and sprinkle with your desired embellishments.

Thanksgiving Desserts #5
Pumpkin Goat-Cheese Cake
Thanksgiving Desserts

  • 3 oz. wafer cookies
  • 1 1/4 c. granola
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. goat cheese
  • 2 packs cream cheese
  • 1 1/4 pumpkin
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cinnamon
  • Salt
  • Spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger)

Mix granola, cookie crumbs, brown sugar, salt and spices in a medium bowl and stir in batter. Pat in a 9″ pan and bake for 15 minutes. Beat goat cheese and sugar, add cream cheese and add the remaining ingredients until mixture is smooth. Transfer the batter onto the pan and bake until set. Serve chilled.

Thanksgiving Desserts #6
Comely Cranberry Pie
Thanksgiving Desserts

  • 4 c. cranberries
  • 2 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. orange zest
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 disks double-crust pie recipe
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 c sugar

Ground 3 cups of cranberries in food processor. Transfer to a bowl and mix remaining cranberries. Add walnuts, cornstarch, orange zest, salt and a dash of nutmeg. Roll out one of the pie doughs and fit into a 9″ plate. Place cranberry onto the crust. Roll out remaining disk; decorate with cut-out dough weaves, if you want. Brush egg white all over the pie before baking into a 375-degree oven. Pat with confectioners’ sugar for a finishing touch, or serve with vanilla ice cream.

Thanksgiving Desserts #7
Pecan-topped Brownies
Thanksgiving Desserts

  • 4 oz. chopped dark chocolate
  • 1/4 c. unsalted butter
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tbsp. water
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream
  • Chopped pecans
  • Salt

Melt the chocolate and butter over medium heat. Transfer to a bowl and whisk 1 cup sugar and the eggs. Mix with flour and salt; add the chocolate chips and spread the batter onto an 8-inch square baking pan. Bake until set. For the topping, heat sugar and water until it produces a deep caramel color before adding the pecans. Pour the mixture over the cooled brownies. Chill before cutting and serving.

Thanksgiving Desserts #8
Apple Blackberry Crumble
Thanksgiving Desserts

  • Butter
  • 4 Apples
  • 1 package crumb topping
  • Frozen blackberries
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Slice apples 1/4 inch-thick and toss them together with blackberries, sugar, lemon juice and zest. Sprinkle with crumb topping until the top is golden brown. Serve in individual skillets or ceramic mugs.

Thanksgiving Desserts #9
Pumpkin and Orange Sour Cream
Thanksgiving Desserts

  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 c. unsalted butter
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 c. molasses
  • 3 c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1 tsp. orange zest

Whisk flour, ginger, baking powder baking soda, salt and cloves. Beat 1 cup of butter and sugar until light. Mix in eggs, one at a time and beat the pumpkin and molasses. Add the flour mixture until incorporated. Divide the batter into 12 muffin cups and bake until set. For the frosting, beat confectioners’ sugar, sour cream and 6 tablespoons of butter until smooth. Add orange zest. Frost cupcakes before serving.

Thanksgiving Desserts #10
Apple Cranberry Tarts

Thanksgiving Desserts

  • 2 sheets puff pastry
  • 3/4 c. Cranberry Sauce
  • 2 Gala apples, sliced thinly
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c. apricot jam
  • 2 tbsp. water

Cut the puff pastry into 12 4×3 inch rectangles and make a ½-inch border around each. Spread the cranberry sauce on the borders and top with sliced apples. Brush outer border with eggs and sprinkle with sugar. bake until golden brown.

Combine jam and water over by cooking over medium-heat and brush the mixture over each tart.

There you go! 10 thanksgiving desserts to keep you company during your cheerful holiday dinner. Now, all you need are great stories to tell and pictures to keep as souvenirs.

Credits: this list was curated from the amazing recipes featured in Country Living (1-5) and Woman’s Day (6-10).