Tag Archives: thanksgiving

Canadian Thanksgiving

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Canadian
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/22/2019
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Background: This informant is a young-adult Canadian student studying at USC. The informant describes a Canadian holiday that is similar to an American one, with different origins. This is a transcription of our conversation (the informant is labeled as “H” and I am labeled as “Me”):


Me: Do you have any other holidays in Canada, other than like Independence Day?

H: We have Canadian Thanksgiving actually. I mean it’s not about like pilgrims or anything but it’s similar to Thanksgiving here [in the US]. It’s about being thankful and spending time with family and friends.

Me: How do you celebrate it?

H: We have Turkey and stuff and have a big meal.

Me: Is it in November too?

H: No it’s like the second week of October, on a Monday- I think.

Context: This conversation occurred during an evening dance rehearsal during a brief break. I approached the informant as I knew she grew up outside of the US to see if I could gain some more international folklore.

Thoughts: I had no idea that Canada celebrated Thanksgiving too. When the informant told me about this holiday, I researched it to find out more information and found that the first Canadian Thanksgiving occurred before the original US Thanksgiving. While the holiday began to be celebrated later on in the 19th century, it’s a separate entity from the US holiday and represents Canadian pride and family. I think this holiday helps to demonstrate the value of the nuclear family in both Canadian and United States culture. Both cultures have allotted days to return home to family and miss work to focus on spending time with loved ones.

For more information on Canadian Thanksgiving, here is an article by Olivia B. Waxman originally published in October 2017 entitled “The Surprising Reason Canadian Thanksgiving Is Different From The US Version” (Time Magazine):


Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 50
Occupation: Teacher / Admissions Director
Residence: San Diego, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/15/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):


Interviewer: “What about the Thanksgiving tradition with pumpkin pie?”

Informant: “So the ingredients in pumpkin pie are largely consistent. Um, most pumpkin pies contain eggs and cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger and salt and pie crust. What you generally do is whisk it all together and bake it. Our family does not bake it at all, we instead use egg whites and all the same ingredients as well as the most important ingredient which is gelatin, which is used to make jello in many recipes. Also, we do not heat it up and it is served cold.”


The recipe for this pumpkin pie has been handed down for generations for use during Thanksgiving. It is important because it is the family’s signature Thanksgiving dish and pays homage to the ancestors who originated the tradition.


The informant (my mother) and I discussed this tradition at our home kitchen table, but the recipe itself is only used during Thanksgiving.


Although normal pumpkin pie is a very common Thanksgiving tradition, this cold gelatinous variant introduces the family’s personal twist on the traditional recipe. Because of this unique identifier, participation in the tradition brings one closer to the heritage of the family and also provides a family bonding activity in the form of cooking the pies the day before Thanksgiving.

Korean Thanksgiving Traditions

--Informant Info--
Nationality: South Korean
Age: 21
Residence: South Korea
Date of Performance/Collection: 4-17-19
Primary Language: Korean
Other Language(s): English

Main Piece: “In Korean thanksgiving we gather all the family and sit down and make own rice cakes, Songpyun, and translated in English, it is a half mooned shaped rice cake. In the middle of the rice cake there is something sweet… I can’t remember exactly what, but it is sweet. We make them and steam them, and then play game called Go Stop. It’s a gambling game that is like poker, where you pair the images and the card, and you bet on the game. One point is considered a dollar, and they get doubled and tripled very easily. One thanksgiving I earned 400 dollars from my uncle. Sometimes it can get a bit hot, because people lose a lot of money… but its all in good fun so we like it. The holiday lasts three days and everyone stays with family for the entirety of the holiday. It is a great chance to reconnect with cousins cause they live in different cities and different social positions. Because of this, we don’t get to see each other that much so it is a good chance to see everyone for at least a few days in the year. There are a lot of very diverse professions in the family, so it makes it even harder to see each other which is why it is good to reconnect with each other.”


Background: MP said that Korean families have become more nuclear recently, so there are less big families, and it is more or less smaller tight knit familial groups. MP also mentioned that Korean culture can be very individualistic when it comes to everyday things, and that because Korean people are very ambitious, they can be very judgmental. MP mentioned that a lot of his cousins were very jealous that he was able to study in the United States because it is viewed as a very prestigious opportunity, and they don’t have the money to be able to have that experience. MP mentioned that things of that nature can sometimes create more jealousy during the thanksgiving season, and as a result sometimes families would decide not to gather during the family holidays. When asked whether or not he thought this more of a contained thing with his family, MP responded that it is extremely common in South Korea to have this issue of jealousy, and as such sometimes it was seen as more of a pain to meet for Holidays.


Context of Performance: MP told me about his typical Thanksgiving while we were at my apartment discussing typical traditions and holidays in our respective cultures. He was very excited to talk about it, especially after hearing how it differed from my general experience with Thanksgiving and holidays in general.


Analysis: I found WP’s thanksgiving traditions to be extremely interesting, especially because while at first it seemed to mirror typical American thanksgivings, it quickly became apparent that there are some striking differences. The gathering of the family is obviously very similar to American Culture, and it would appear that in both cases there is an emphasis on making time for your family, and being thankful for the fact that you all have each other. However I do find it interesting that MP mentions how judgmental it can get during thanksgiving especially in regard to people’s school and work opportunities. I also found it very interesting that some years they would decide not to meet as a family because it is seen as more of a headache, than a fun time of the year. This must tie in to what MP was talking about with Korean culture being somewhat individualistic, and how even though familial bonds are important to an extent, the main thing is to do what is best for you. In America, we are definitely an individualistic culture, but those ideals almost always seem to take a backseat during holidays. In some ways it seems that in America we are trying to make up for a year’s worth of being selfish, by spending one or two holidays with families.

Jewish-American Thanksgiving

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student, Actor
Residence: Los Angeles, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Hebrew

D.F. – “Every year, my family and I go to my Grandfather’s house in Oceanside CA for thanksgiving.  And during the beginning of that week, my Aunt and her family fly in from MN to start cooking.  That’s usually a Monday or a Tuesday.  They start preparing that early.  Sometimes we come Wednesday night before thanksgiving, but usually most of us come on the Thursday morning.  My family usually says that we’re gonna leave by 8:30, but we always leave like a half hour later.    And then we get to oceanside, an hour and a half away, and my Mom is always in charge of the appetizers, and she usually has too many appetizers, all from Costco, and they all have to be KOSHER.  And then, the other families get there.  And then, we all bet what time my uncle and his family are gonna get there because they’re always late.  So then everyone puts down bets for what time he’ll get there, minute by minute, I’ve won a few times.  Once they get there, that’s the pause in the day when we have to figure out what we’re going to do because that’s when everyone’s cooking and they don’t like it when everyone is in the kitchen.  So my cousins and I go play pool at my Grandpa’s senior living house thing.  I didn’t get to start doing that until I was 14 because that was the minimum age; I was really excited.  We play pool for a little while, are forced to come home, everyone sits down at the dinner table (about 25 of us).”

“There are a few people who are assigned to bring in food from the table, and it’s very important that if you did not get asked to do this, that you sit down.  We start with appetizers; now, don’t forget that we already had appetizers, but now we have these sweet&sour meat-balls that my grandma used to make for dinner appetizers.  Sometimes we have matzah ball soup sometimes, if my aunt is up for it.  My other aunt always makes small challahs for everyone.”

“Everyone goes in a circle throughout the meal, saying what they’re thankful for, that year, in front of everyone.  Eating ends.  My brother and I get s**t every year for not helping clean up enough.”

“. . . My other aunt is always in charge of the deserts.  They’re never very good.  After desert, we all take our family photo every year on my grandfather’s couch.”


Such structure.  This is in many ways similar to my own Thanksgiving memories, but this seems to have a lot more structure.  My family is pretty tightly wound, but every year, thanksgiving is a very laid-back holiday.  It seems that this is not the case in this household.  Thanksgiving festivities are among the most prominent folkloric experiences in the United States, as most people who live in the country choose to celebrate with loved ones and friends.  It’s interesting not only to see how similar everyone’s Thanksgivings are, but also to examine how the days often differ. Also, it’s fascinating that this person’s religion intertwines here with their nationality.  Even on a holiday such as Thanksgiving, when one’s religion is largely unimportant, her food must remain kosher.

Thanksgiving Tamales

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican-American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA/ Brownsville, TX
Date of Performance/Collection: 24 April 2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Subject: Traditional foods at Thanksgiving holiday celebrations. Tamales.


“Interviewer: So, you just mentioned that you make Christmas dinner every year?

Interviewee: Yes, I make Christmas dinner and I make Thanksgiving dinner every year… so I started making the turkey on Thanksgiving, so which is why I love Thanksgiving so much now. I always loved it but now it’s like… I have to go every year. I have to go home because I make the fucking turkey. And I also bake all the fu- all the pies. Apple pie and the turkey every year… So, my mom has to make the stuffing. I will not let her like not make the stuffing. My dad, if he’s up to it, up for it, he will make like roasted potatoes with like butter and like herbs, like red potatoes, like particularly. My brother will probably do some sort of vegetable side dish… my sister usually doesn’t help that much, uh, I don’t know why. But my eldest sister, now that she has her own house, she like, like brings mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese.

But… I would like there to be tamales. Tamales are the kind of thing you get like once or twice a year. Um, and once or twice a year, one of those times is going be Thanksgiving and the other one has to be Christmas… So like winter, winter holidays. It’s just like the special occasion of it, you know. They’re not difficult to make…, it takes long, it’s just a process, ya know. We’re just like, it’s Christmas coming up so we’re going to make a lot of tamales, so it’s not like they make them for every meal. They freeze them and then bring them out for this holiday. And they’re just as good frozen…once you’ve reheated them.

Tamales has to be there. There is no way you can’t make more than enough.”

Background Info: Z. Cantú is a twenty-year-old college student majoring in Theater at the University of Southern California. She is from Brownsville, Texas and is bilingual in Spanish and English. Both of her parents immigrated to the United States as teens where they met and started a family. She has grown up with a melding of American and Mexican traditions.

Context: My roommate first mentioned that she enjoys making Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner while speaking about her ethnographic foods course. I asked her to go in depth to her experience preparing and consuming the food on these holidays for my collection.

Analysis: My roommate’s experience with Thanksgiving is especially interesting when placing it within her experiences of growing up in American culture but having parents who grew up in Mexico and did not celebrate Thanksgiving. To her family, Thanksgiving has become a mandatory homecoming, a time to reconnect every year. In this process, the observance of the Thanksgiving holiday has been removed from its American context and has been reworked to be one that defines her parents’ new family and their new life together in a new place. Furthermore, most of the families in the Brownsville area do not celebrate Thanksgiving because it is not part of their national background; in other words, the practice of Thanksgiving is not part of their reinforcement or performance of identity. For the Cantú family, however, the holiday is observed to exert their identity as a family unit that is composed of both Mexican and American heritage.

This is best observed by the food that is literally placed on the Thanksgiving table. There are the foods typically seen at an American family Thanksgiving: turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes, and stuffing, for instance. However, the Cantú family modifies their American identity by including tamales at the table. For my roommate, this is a crucial part of the holiday season; the consumption of tamales marking a time of celebration and reunion. Without tamales, the performance of her dual-heritage would be incomplete. Since the food consumed physically represents the diversity of her family, to not include one element would not be fully embodying all parts of herself and her family.

Hanish Family Pie Tradition

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Tarzana, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 18, 2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Background: Lila is my best friend from high school. She has a tradition with her dad, Jon, and her younger sister, Sydney, to hand make apple pies for Thanksgiving together. They have been inviting me to be part of this tradition for the past 3 years.

Context: I called Lila over FaceTime because she attends Drexel University in Philadelphia. I recorded our conversation and transcribed it below.

“Honestly I don’t know when this tradition started but for as long as I can remember when it’s Thanksgiving time we always go to my cousin’s house in Orange County. Everyone in my family brings something because there are so many people, like first and second cousins. Me and my dad and my sister have a tradition every year to make the apple pies. My dad makes sure that a day or two before Thanksgiving me and my sister are home for the night to make apple pies with him. When we got older it became a thing to invite friends. It’s fun and one of those cute little traditions your family has. I don’t know how it started but yeah. My dad found some recipe online or something but we make the dough fresh every year. We start by skinning the apples… or wait we make the dough first and put it in the fridge. Then we do the whole apples and cinnamon for the filling. Then we make the top crust. For the past year or two we’ve started to make a berry pie too. We’ll make a few apple pies and then a berry pie too. My parents have started to buy extra ingredients so that our friends can take pies home with them to take to their Thanksgiving dinners.”



Apple and berry pie at the Hanish household, Thanksgiving 2017.


Thanksgiving game

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/1/18
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

I asked, do you do anything specific with your family for holidays?:


“I have a really big family so Thanksgiving dinner is always 20 people or so. Every year at Thanksgiving dinner we each write down one “-ing” verb and one noun and put them all in two separate hats. Everyone picks one of each out of the hats and the combination of the two is your ‘Thanksgiving name’ with my grandfather acting as the chief.

When you pick your name you say it our loud and everyone else responds: ‘And the crowd says “ahhhhh”’

For example:

Person 1: I am… whispering three toed sloth

Family response: and the crowd says Ahhhh“


Background: Mae is a 19 year old girl raised in Westwood, CA and currently living in Los Angeles, CA. Her parents are originally from Chicago and Little Rock, and she lived in Princeton, NJ briefly as a young girl.

Context: Mae shared this story with me when she came to my house to celebrate Easter.

Analysis: Holiday traditions are incredibly personal to each family, and even people who celebrate the same holidays can have an entirely different way of doing so. My family, for example, doesn’t play any particular games like this at Thanksgiving, and our Thanksgiving dinner is usually one of our more formal holiday celebrations though it is always light-hearted and fun. Our Christmas dinner, as a matter of fact, is always extremely casual and we typically order Chinese food or have left overs, which you would think would be a more formal holiday. This further exemplifies how much variation there is in celebrations depending on specific family traditions. Similarly, however, my family always has Thanksgiving-themed hats that everyone receives on their place settings. It is really cool to hear what the unique ways that my friends celebrate different holidays with their families.

Thanksgiving Song

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 18
Occupation: student
Residence: usc
Date of Performance/Collection: april 17, 2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

What is being performed?
JJ: Have you heard the Thanksgiving song?
AA: No, what’s the Thanksgiving song?
JJ: Well, I don’t know if it’s called that but my family sings it before we eat on Thanksgiving. It
might be called Thank You for the Food.
AA: How does it go?
JJ: (singing) Thank you God for the food we eat. Thank you God for the world so sweet. Thank
you God for the birds that sing. Thank you God for everything. Amen.
Why do they know or like this piece? where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to
AA: Where did you learn the song?
JJ: My mom would make us sing it before we ate on Thanksgiving.
AA: Do you like the song?
JJ: Uhhh, I guess it’s kind of catchy, haha.
AA: It is catchy! What does it mean to you?
JJ: I guess it’s just about giving thanks. It’s nice and it reminds me of my childhood with my
brother and family.

Context of the performance- where do you perform it? History?
This is usually performed at Thanksgiving dinners before eating. It’s a catchy way of giving
grace and is Christian in nature. It could be performed outside of Thanksgiving but my informant
believes it is specifically about Thanksgiving.

I have attached an audio of the song in the Folklore archive. My informant agreed for it to be
used for the folklore archive purpose but wants me to get rid of it otherwise. I think the song is
catchy and have never heard it before. I could see this being an important part of Thanksgiving
for religious families.

Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner with Mac and Cheese

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Half Japanese, Half Chinese
Age: 20
Occupation: College Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/17/16
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Tradition: An adult male, half Chinese half Texan, brings mac and cheese to his family Thanksgiving dinner every year. The family is a mix of ethnicities: Japanese, Chinese, and Caucasian.

The informant is a half Japanese half Chinese female, age 20.

Informant: For Thanksgiving, we have one cousin (Eric) whose sole responsibility is to bring the mac and cheese. And every year, our aunt asks everyone what they want to bring, and on the list, she’ll write “Eric-Mac and Cheese.” Apparently it’s the best mac and cheese.

Collector: Do you like it? Does your family like it?

Informant: It’s pretty good, I’ve eaten it. I assume that my family likes it. Because he’s demanded to bring it every year. I’m just waiting to see what happens when he doesn’t bring it.

Collector: Where did he learn to make it from?

Informant: I asked him about it, and he said he pulled the recipe off the internet. And he proceeded to forward it to me, so I can make it for myself.

Collector: What do you think it means to you or to your family?

Informant: I think it’s funny that my aunt assumes that that’s the only thing he can make and that we can eat. This has been going on for five years now. So whenever it’s Thanksgiving, I know that there’s something that I can eat–there’s gonna be mac and cheese!

Even though the family has a mix of different ethnic backgrounds, it’s interesting to see that every year, they demand and designated for one family member to bring the mac and cheese to Thanksgiving dinner. I think that this family tradition is reflective of the “melting pot” culture of America, where families come together and share their food cultures with one another.

Chinese Hot Pot for Thanksgiving Dinner

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Chinese
Age: 20
Occupation: College Student
Residence: Los Angeles, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/17/16
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Informant is a 20 year old, Chinese, college student studying at the University of Southern California. Both of his parents are Chinese.

Informant’s Tradition: So for Thanksgiving dinner, originally when my parents were struggling students, they had like a slow cooker. They’d just boil water in a slow cooker, and they would boil meat and add sauces, like a hot pot. Back then, it would just be cheaper stuff, and they would mix it with peanut butter sauces, because they didn’t have the money to get the sesame sauce for normal hot pots. My mom learned to make a peanut butter sauce that I prefer it to the normal store bought sesame sauce now.

Collector: Does your family do this every Thanksgiving?

Informant: Yeah, for Thanksgiving, and sometimes for Christmas too. But usually for Thanksgiving.

Collector: Did your parents teach you how to make it too?

Informant: Not really, but from observing it seems pretty simple. Like I would be able to make it if I wanted to.

Collector: How long do you think they have been doing this for?

Informant: 20 years. They’ve been in the States for around 20 years now.

Collector: What do you think it means?

Informant: I think it’s not only a nice way to like, express our own culture, but also like a way to acknowledge our history, like we couldn’t sometimes afford turkey back in the day. It has meaning because of the significance back then.

Collector: Why do you guys like to make this?

Informant: I guess it’s because we enjoy hot pot more than we like turkey. But also because there’s a history to it, and it’s also fulfilling your own cultural values.

I think that with the “melting pot” nature in the United States, people from all over the world can come to America and make it their home. By bringing their culture with them, and infusing it into American holidays and traditions, people of different backgrounds can make their holiday celebrations the best of both worlds.