American Events in November: Thanksgiving

In the U.S., there are three nationally observed events in November: Election Day, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. It commemorates the first successful harvest of the early European settlers in Massachusetts and was an opportunity for them to give thanks for good weather, cooperation with local native Americans, and enough food to survive the oncoming winter.

 Traditional Thanksgiving dinner (photo: Wikipedia)

Traditional Thanksgiving dinner (photo: Wikipedia)

Schools and businesses are closed for the day. Because the holiday is on Thursday, it gives most Americans a four-day weekend, so many people use this opportunity to travel back to their hometowns. Nationally, it is the busiest travel week for airlines. College students go home to be with family. Homeless shelters serve turkey and other traditional food. In addition to eating and visiting, Americans watch morning parades and afternoon football games on TV.

 Oven-roasted turkey (photo: Wikipedia)

Oven-roasted turkey (photo: Wikipedia)

The most traditional meat served that day is turkey (although some eat ham). Americans typically eat too much that day, and tables are full to overflowing with special casseroles, potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce, gravy, rolls or corn bread. The most common dessert is pumpkin pie, but apple and mincemeat pies are also common.

The day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday.  It is the busiest shopping day of the year, as early birds line up in pre-dawn hours to take advantage of limited-time sales. Black Friday is the first official shopping day for those getting ready for Christmastime giving.  Because this day is one where retailers operate in the black (black ink--as opposed to red--signifies profits), some people believe this is the origin of the name.  Actually, the name Black Friday was used by the police department in Philadelphia to refer to the work day after Thanksgiving where the streets and stores were crowded and work shifts were terrible.  It had such a bad reputation that many police officers called in "sick" instead of reporting for their shift.

Alan Headbloom

Alan advises Americans how to be global citizens and expats how to fit in to Michigan culture without annoying their native coworkers and clients. He also tweets and blogs at the intersection of language and culture. Over decades, he's traveled, studied, or lived on six continents, putting strange foods into his mouth and emitting strange sounds from it. His use of English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Swedish, Hausa, and Japanese all improve with alcohol use. He gives invited public presentations on culture and unsolicited private advice on English grammar and usage; the latter isn't always appreciated. Visit his website for information on consulting, coaching, or speaking engagements.