Tag Archives: thanksgiving

Pre-Thanksgiving Festival/Tradition

“A tradition that my family had is called Pie Day, and it’s not 3-14 but instead the day before thanksgiving. It’s essentially a party where friends and family come together and make pies for thanksgiving, everyone is in the kitchen. Before we moved to Washington my grandma would always have pie day at her house and that is the one time of year that I would see the most extended of extended family. There are lots of wine snacks and cooking. In Washington it was much more my parents’ friends and a couple cousins and such, and the night ends with everyone gathering on the couch and sitting down for a show or movie.”

The informant performs this tradition every year the day before Thanksgiving, typically held at her parents house in Olympia, Washington, USA. Depending on the year, different people may arrive to participate in this tradition. The informant’s immediate family, her parents’ friend group, her dad’s work friends, herself and her siblings, who invite a couple of their friends, and then some extended family are all potential participants, depending who is in town. Every person who comes can bring a dish they would like to make for the next day, but most people just come to socialize and decompress before the busy Thanksgiving day. The informant is not sure when it started, but her family started preparing the pies for Thanksgiving in the days before and as the years went on, more and more people were invited to participate in preparing food prior to the actual holiday.

The tradition demonstrates a culture that values food and socialization, as nearly all cultures do. Cooking together is a common way to build bonds between people, especially family and close friends. It is a sort of unofficial folk festival for just the small group of people involved, taking place the day before a bigger holiday. This is relatively common as people prepare for holidays. There are group cooking days for food-centered holidays, group shopping excursions for the winter holidays that involve gift giving, and group decorating days before decoration-centered holidays like Dia de Los Muertos or Christmas. It is a way to mount the excitement for the holiday as well as extend the celebration.

Thanksgiving Ham

Text: “My family always buys pre-sliced ham from our local grocery shop on Thanksgiving, and it’s really good with the special glaze that it comes with. It’s like this honey pineapple type glaze that’s sweet and then you combine the sweet with the savory from the ham, and it’s just an amazing concoction.”


Informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California studying human biology, originally from St. Louis, Missouri from Nigerian descent. We speak alongside a few of her other friends, and she carries a somewhat sarcastic, comedic tone.

“It’s a classic Thanksgiving staple in our family. And I honestly prefer eating the ham over turkey any day anytime. We began doing it when we moved into my new house which is my current house back at home. So probably 2013, 2014 ish. I think we do it because it’s way easier to prepare than a Turkey, and it tastes better. I’ve heard of other people doing it, but not for Thanksgiving more for Christmas. This tradition makes me feel so excited to wake up on Thanksgiving morning. I can smell the sweet, savory aroma of the ham tickle my nostrils. Wow.”

Analysis: Having this specific dish on a certain holiday is an example of a ritual. It is a ritual which commemorates something, namely the early days of colonized America. It is performed within a certain group of people at a specific time of year. It is also an example of ritual inversion in how modern folk tradition places ham on the menu for Christmas and turkey on the menu for Thanksgiving, but the informant’s family reverses these traditions. They are able to invert the normal social rules because they have claimed their own celebration as their own time for traditions and rituals.

Southern-Irish Oyster Dressing


“One family ritual we had growing up for Thanksgiving was that rather than having cornbread-based dressings [for Thanksgiving], we always had oyster dressing… Oyster dressing would have been a standard addition to our Southern-Irish Thanksgiving dinner growing up.”

Minor Genre: 

Holiday Ritual; Traditional Foods


The informant explained in the interview, “My understanding is that [oyster dressing] has roots in my family’s Irish heritage rather than in Southern culture.” The informant grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, in a deep Southern setting, but her family immigrated from Ireland in the 1800s and maintained a strong connection with their Irish roots.


Although the informant believed the oyster dressing was connected to Irish culture, my research indicates that it actually became deeply embedded in Southern cuisine. The recipe was brought to New England from Britain in the 18th century, where it then migrated down the East Coast and took root in the deep South.

I think the most interesting part of this interview from a folkloric perspective is the informant’s belief that their traditional oyster dressing dish originated from Ireland. Although my research indicates the recipe was brought to America from Britain, it is entirely possible that the recipe was brought to the informant’s family from Ireland. The part of the family from Ireland lived in the coastal town of Dungarvan, which is located in one of the counties in Ireland that accounts for the highest production of oysters. Therefore, the informant is not necessarily incorrect in her belief that the recipe originated from Ireland –– though it is also possible that her family adapted the recipe from their Southern environment.

An additional note on oyster dressing is that the informant was specific in saying dressing rather than stuffing. Stuffing and dressing are terms used for the same traditional Thanksgiving dish, but “dressing” is specific to the South, and is the term the informant used before moving to California, where her husband’s family used the term “stuffing.”

Christmas Music Car Ritual

C: “My Grandma started this ritual because she was a very big fan of the Thanksgiving holiday and a very firm believer that like, Christmas season doesn’t start until Thanksgiving passes. Um, and so she started this thing in the car that you are not allowed to listen to Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving. Um, and then it’s like- it was believed it was bad luck, like it’s not proper, like, um, I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s like we’re not celebrating the holidays in the proper way. And if someone requests it it’s like- like I have personally before been like ‘should we listen to Christmas music’ and been like shunned by my brothers being like ‘No! Grandma says we do not listen to Christmas music in the car until after Thanksgiving, like Grandma does not allow that.’ So it is like a holiday ritual now that we follow.”

Interviewer: “And was it like a big deal when you could listen to Christmas music again?”

C: “Mhm! Especially when it would be with my Grandma, because she would have in her car this, like, plastic container that was at least a foot long that had all of the CDs of Christmas albums, like, stacked. So like, it was when that got transferred from her garage into the car after Thanksgiving, that was the signal of ‘okay, now it’s time’ and then it like- it was like finally, we can ask and we don’t have to be afraid of her being like, ‘no, it’s not Thanksgiving yet.’”

Interviewer: “Would that be something, like, an act that you witnessed, or would it be like a fun surprise?”

C: “No, we would see her do it, because we practically lived with her for most of my childhood, so we would see her from the garage get- like, we knew where it was in the garage- get it and put it in. And then it was a thing of like, we can each grab one of the CDs and pick the ones we wanted, and then she would put them in and then take the next one out and be like ‘what’s the next song to have on?’ So it was like an actual little ritual thing.”

C is a current student at the University of Southern California and grew up in Palm Desert, California. She explained that the ritual always occurred the day after Thanksgiving. When asked if anyone had ever broken the rule about no Christmas music in the car before Thanksgiving, C laughed nervously and admitted that she is a massive fan of Christmas music and sometimes listens to it in her AirPods during the summer, but that she “will NOT tell anyone” in her family, as they would still react poorly. Her pre-Thanksgiving Christmas music listening is restricted to her AirPods, however; she described one instance in which she began to listen to Christmas music in the car with her boyfriend before Thanksgiving, but felt “too guilty” and had to turn it off. Despite her love of Christmas music, C believes she will continue the tradition and ritual with her future family.

This ritual seems to be a very calendric/seasonally-based ritual enforced, as C mentioned, to ensure the ‘proper’ and time-appropriate celebration of the seasons. I have noticed that the United States, especially in commercial settings, tends to begin preparing for Christmas well in advance of the holiday, often de-emphasizing Thanksgiving celebrations by barely squeezing it in between Christmas and Halloween. By establishing listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving as a forbidden practice, C’s grandmother is able to keep the lines between different seasons and celebrations distinct and honor each in their own time. In doing so, she also created a ritual that, from C’s description, served as a fun and fondly-remembered marker of the beginning of the Christmas season for her and her grandchildren.

Thanksgiving Ornaments

The informant is a student in university who has spent the entirety of his life in the United States, starting various different traditions that she has the ability to experience due to family members building upon their values.


On Thanksgiving, the United States’ annual national holiday, the informant, her family and extended members join together to “share [their] love with one another by bringing [their] Christmas earlier in the year.” The ceremony that takes place accompanying the traditional Thanksgiving feast and activities includes the “exchange of an ornament on Thanksgiving because we often won’t be able to be together during Christmas but we get to carry a reminder of them on the tree.” This is typically done “after the meal ends, giving each other the ornaments, symbolic of our love on Christmas eve and day, is mainly for the extended family members who we don’t get to see on the most chaotic days of the year”.


The informant states that this tradition has existed in her family since “[her] brother was 5 so that was 13 years ago” and was a very important ceremony that played a “unique part of Thanksgiving day” as it was “more symbolic than the turkey was to [them]”. She had also expressed that these ornaments were usually personalized according to each family member and their interests, specifically over the course of that year. Examples of this in her family exist through an ornament that she received years ago that was “Nemo themed because it was my favourite movie as a child” and that resonated with the rest of the family as they put it on their tree for that Christmas season. Ornament ceremonies had a certain dynamic and were typically done between specific individuals most of the years with an exchange of “the older generations giving the younger generations personalised ones” and the entire family giving the elders “a collective personalised one” from their descendants. This can be seen through her family giving their grandfather a wooden ornament because of their “family memories and love for nature.” She summarises her experience with the ceremony as a “matter of how we can share our love with unfortunately not being able to be in the same space as each other” on Christmas day.


This unique ceremony being done during Thanksgiving presents a different approach to the traditional holiday by implementing the effects of the religious/community holiday of Christmas together. The mix of holidays in a familial setting embraces and highlights the true impact of these holidays on the informant and her family, placing her family in an important position in their lives. Although it is not a generational tradition that has existed for decades, it emphasises the significance of this tradition to the informant herself and her siblings. The personalisation of the ornaments presents the beginning of a narrative of sorts as she is able to collect the personalised ornaments she has received over the years to show the growth in her persona and values as a human. Besides this allowing the family to celebrate the family essence that they do not have on Christmas with the ornaments received on Thanksgiving, it also supports the ideology of feeling extreme gratitude on Thanksgiving. Spreading the “love and family joy” all year round as they prepare for the year ahead of them, with the ornaments piling up over the years symbolizes the impacts of implementing this ceremony onto Thanksgiving. It allows the informant to have grown up feeling connected to her extended family which is evident in the manner she has expressed the importance of family in her life, missing the ones who are not there for Christmas Eve.