Thanksgiving in America: Food, Family, and Football…

Thanksgiving is about food, family, and football. The holy holiday trinity.

Sure, there’s a whole murky historiography of thanksgiving festivities that we could be analyzing here. From various European harvest festivals, to Canada’s befuddling Thanksgiving origins, and America’s own Pilgrim and Indian Utopian feasting.

However, if you don’t have to sit through school pageants featuring your five-year old decked out in pilgrim belt buckles or feathered headdresses to act out America’s harmonious immigration policy, none of this stuff really figures in nowadays.

Instead, we focus more on making our house look pretty and welcoming for potential holiday guests.

Give Thanks - Thanksgiving decorations
American homes are decorated with autumn colors, pumpkins and other Thanksgiving paraphernalia for the holiday

The tradition we really share with our ancestors is the thanks we give for a bountiful display of delicious foods. Why else would the Thanksgiving symbol be the Cornucopia, the representation of abundant nourishment?

Cornucopia or "Horn of Plenty": a symbol for good harvest and a popular Thanksgiving decoration
A Cornucopia, or “Horn of Plenty”: a symbol for good harvest, and a popular Thanksgiving decoration

By means of this post, I – Marly – want to give you an impression of the Thanksgiving traditions and menus (!) as they are celebrated in most families around the United States.

A cultural phenomenon so strong that most Americans are willing to travel far and wide to claim their seat at the family dinner table on the last Thursday of November, yet very much unknown to us Europeans.

Thanksgiving kitchen towels: "Eat, Drink, and be Thankful"
Thanksgiving kitchen towels: “Eat, Drink, and be Thankful”

Food & Family: Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving meal traditions can vary from region to region, or even from family to family. On New England tables you may find creamed onions, followed by Indian porridge for dessert. Macaroni and cheese is a soulful Southern staple. Scandinavian lefse and lutefisk are likely to be incorporated in the North, while salads are generally more common on the West coast.

Dining room decorated in autumn colors for Thanksgiving dinner
Traditional dining room decorated in autumn colors and natural elements

Let’s get down to what my family in North Carolina whips up every year*. Naturally, the best menu ever. Oh, and don’t let the name “Thanksgiving dinner” fool you. In our house, all this goodness is actually served for lunch! 😀


First and foremost: Turkey. Of course there is turkey.
Save your honey glazed hams for Christmas or Easter.

Raw turkey being marinated in a cooler
As fridge space is sparse and food items plentiful for Thanksgiving, the turkey is being marinated in a cooler!

We tried deep-frying our turkey a few times, to magnificent results. But after one abnormally windy Thanksgiving left our fryer in the cold and us with only burgers on our table, we went back to the classic oven method…
[Unfortunately, there are no photos of this undoubtedly hilarious, though slightly embarrassing Thanksgiving “dinner”.]

Last year, we served up a teeny tiny turkey. Yeah right. As if.
With an extra person joining us for dinner, and it being her very first Thanksgiving [Yup! That would be me.], we got ourselves a bird that was so big it barely fit our oven. Its weight? Oh, a mere 23 pounds…

A Thanksgiving turkey so big it barely fits the oven
Surely that ought to be enough turkey to feed 5 people, right?

All sorts of sides

In my family, we love our sides almost as much as we love our meats. Who am I kidding? My family simply loves food. We want it all, and we want it now.

For Thanksgiving, our sides selection therefore consists of sausage stuffing, sweet potato-pecan casserole, pineapple casserole, bacon-broccoli salad, cranberry sauce, gravy (with hardboiled eggs because we’re proper Southerners), deviled eggs, spiced peaches, gherkins for good luck, and a whole mess of bread rolls.

And the table? Set so beautifully and abundantly, that it looks like a true piece of art.
With the amount of food that had been prepared for us, we were actually able to decorate most of the dining room!

Setting the Thanksgiving dinner table: turkey and many sides
Setting the table for my first Thanksgiving dinner (a.k.a. lunch 😉 ): a huge turkey and many sides.
An abudance of sides for Thanksgiving dinner
In fact, so many sides were served, that not all of them fit the table. We had to use additional dining room furniture for presentation!
Me and my first Thanksgiving turkey, weighing only 23-pounds...
Wish me luck! I mean… Bon Appétit! 🙂


Nuh-uh, don’t think that you’re done just yet.
Once you’ve managed to get – and keep? – all that food down, you’re ready to move on to the highlight of the holiday… PIE!

I love pie. What’s not to love about pie?
Again, there are variations across the country, but for us Southerners its pecan pie and pumpkin pie.

Lots of them. Covered in whipped cream.

Collection of Pecan and Pumpkin Pies for Thanksgiving Dinner
Anybody got any room left for dessert? Here’s our impressive collection of Pecan and Pumpkin pies.
Pecan and pumpkin pie with whipped cream
Leave it to my boyfriend to find a space in his tummy for sweet stuff. Here he is, about to gorge on a piece of pecan and a piece of pumpkin pie. Of course smothered in whipped cream.

My final thoughts on my first Thanksgiving dinner?

This family had better enjoyed that food we just gorged on, because those leftovers are all they will be eating well into December… 😉

Thanksgiving dinner leftovers: enough food to get us through the whole weekend
Thanksgiving dinner leftovers. Plenty of food for days to come!

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Now that your pants have been unbuttoned to accommodate the belly bulge (no need to hide or deny it), this is the perfect time to plant your butt in front of the TV.

Or maybe I should say, plant your butt back in front of the TV, as I am pretty sure that many of us were already guilty of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade roaming the streets of New York City in the morning… 🙂

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: another popular holiday tradition in the United States
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: another popular holiday tradition in the United States


The afternoon of Thanksgiving in America, however, is officially reserved for almost numbingly staring at NFL Football games while our bodies are trying to digest. Nowadays, we are treated to no less than three NFL games on this special day, two of which always feature the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys.

Terrell Owens - Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Game 2007
Funny moment during the Thanksgiving Football game in 2007, when Dallas Cowboys player Terrell Owens threw popcorn in his face after scoring against the Green Bay Packers.

The Lions have been playing on the holiday since 1934, and the Cowboys since 1966. Both teams saw Thanksgiving as a marketing strategy to snatch a nationally televised game on a day when the NFL was worried fans wouldn’t watch.

It has proven to be a great decision, as now the majority of American families will be sitting down to watch the games together.

In the United States, families and groups of friends get together to watch NFL Football
In the United States, families and groups of friends get together to watch NFL Football. Here we are cheering for the New Orleans Saints!

But let me tell you. With that much food in your system, most of us won’t make it (consciously) through 9 hours of football. Unless your favorite team is playing the night game, chances are you will be checking out early.

Bedtime has fallen earlier in general for Thanksgiving in recent years, as the holiday has become eclipsed by its more sinister follow-up…

Black Friday

A revelry of commercialized hedonism, Black Friday is an opportunity to line up in front of stores in the wee hours of the morning to get incredibly reduced prices on things you more than likely don’t need.

But so it goes, once Thanksgiving has passed, there’s nothing to stand against the onslaught of Christmas. Let the shopping season commence!

Or in our case, let’s go to the Farmer’s Market to pick out a Christmas Tree! 🙂

Christmas Tree Shopping
Shopping for a Christmas tree: “We have to get just the right one!”

As you’ve probably been able to read through the lines, my first Thanksgiving was a great success.

Tasty food, lovely company, and plenty of television entertainment. Heck, we even tossed in some board games (and some wine) to make my holiday more than perfect! 😀

Playing board games in the company of family: what could possibly be better?
Drinking wine and playing board games: what could possibly make this Thanksgiving holiday any better?


Do you celebrate Thanksgiving in America?
Or are you from a different country that also celebrates this holiday?

Is your Thanksgiving experience all about Food, Family, and Football too?
Will you be present at the family table for Thanksgiving dinner this year? And i
f so, how far do you have to travel to go “home”?

Please share your best Thanksgiving memories in the comments sections below.
I am curious how other people celebrate this wonderful family get together!


Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 🙂



* First person references in this article refer to my boyfriend William Black and his family. WB has co-authored this article.


One thought on “Thanksgiving in America: Food, Family, and Football…

  1. What a wonderfully written recount of our Thanksgiving last year. I especially appreciate the pictures as I lost my 2014 photos due to a computer crash (always backup!!!!). I could have done without the last one though. I am so happy your first Thanksgiving was enjoyable and we will miss you both this year. More than you will ever know!! Love, Mom

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