What do Americans do on Thanksgiving?

You know the history of Thanksgiving, and you’ve heard about some of the food that people eat at a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. But maybe you’re still curious. What do Americans do all day? What is happening in an American home on Thanksgiving?

I asked some American friends to share with you their family traditions. Here’s what they said.


My favorite memories include my mom teaching me how to clean and prep a turkey, how to cook a pie without burning the crust, and how to do “the oven dance” with all the food so it all ends up hot and on the table at the same time.”  ~Chelsea

In this sentence, “prep” means prepare. Chelsea’s mother taught her how to prepare a turkey before putting it into the oven. “The oven dance” is the act of putting food into the oven, taking other food out, and putting some things in at the same time. You might need to move things inside the oven to make more room for other things. When the food moves around the oven and the kitchen so much, it’s like a dance.

One of my favorite recipes is the creamed Vidalia onions my grandmother used to make (my mom’s mom). I now make them.”  ~Webb

In many American families, several people make and bring food to share at Thanksgiving. Webb’s grandmother made a special onion dish when she was alive, but now Webb makes it.

Turkey Stuffing

photo credit: Alexandra Moss via photopin cc

We usually have turkey with dressing, green bean casserole, corn pudding, strawberry gelatin and sweet potato casserole. Desserts are pecan pie and apple pie with ice cream, of course!”  ~Kate

When you hear the word “dressing,” you probably think about salad dressing. Kate is talking about turkey dressing, which is also called “stuffing.” It is made with bread, broth, onions, spices, and sometimes pieces of turkey or sausage.


Grandma's Turkey Bowl

Grandma’s Turkey Bowl – Photo by WTCC Instructor A. Thompson

We usually watch football games on TV.”  ~Kate

Football is played mostly in the fall, and there are a lot of big football games on TV on Thanksgiving Day because nobody is working. Everyone is at home relaxing.

We have a big football game, with a trophy and everything. It’s Grandma’s Turkey Bowl.”  ~Angela

The most important football games of the year are called bowl games (the biggest one is the Super Bowl). The winner of a bowl game gets a trophy. Angela’s family plays football together on Thanksgiving, and the winner gets a trophy just like the professionals!


We do a big family shindig. My parents have been hosting these past few years, and every family unit brings something to contribute to the meal. Usually it’s assorted family members, but some years friends join as well. If it’s a large enough crowd (and when the whole family comes, it is), we set two tables, and the rule is you have to sit with different people for dessert.” ~Megan

A “shindig” is a party. Megan’s family is large, so they use two tables, and they change places between dinner and dessert. When she says, “every family unit brings something to contribute,” she means that she brings food, her brother and his wife bring food, her aunt and uncle bring food, her cousin and her husband bring food, and they share all the food.

My favorite is when all the family can visit.”  ~Kate

Kate and her husband have two children and four grandchildren. She loves the years when everyone can come to visit. Sometimes her children spend Thanksgiving with their in-laws, though, so they don’t always get to be together on Thanksgiving.


Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

photo credit: gigi_nyc via photopin cc

We watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!”  ~Olivia

Many cities have a parade on Thanksgiving, but the most famous one is in New York. You can watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV this year just like many American families!