pumpkin pie thanksgiving

5 Thanksgiving traditions to see and taste

Thanksgiving Day falls on November 23rd this year (the fourth Thursday in November) and is the day that traditionally kicks off the ‘holiday season’ in the United States. Thanksgiving Day can be traced all the way back to 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts and it has picked up quite a few traditions over the years.

If you’re thinking of visiting America this autumn, here’s 5 things to see and taste on your trip.

1. Turkey (or turducken)

Turkey is the most common choice of roast bird when it comes to Christmas Day in the UK but in the USA, turkey is far more popular on Thanksgiving Day.

Expect your plate to also be loaded with sweet potato or ‘yams’ as they like to call them.

Turkey isn’t the only meat on offer of course, and you’ll be able to find vegetarian options too. Turducken – yes you read that right – is a roast dish consisting of a boned chicken inside a boned duck which is then placed inside a partially boned turkey. It might sound like a hassle to make, but turducken is really growing in popularity.

2. Pardoning the turkey

If you want to avoid eating meat, or just want to see something that might seem slightly odd, look out for the official pardoning of a turkey by President Trump. Shortly before Thanksgiving, the President is presented with a turkey by the National Turkey Federation. The bird is then “pardoned” and allowed to live out the rest of its natural life.

You’ll be able to catch the pardoning on TV and might even be able to catch a governor completing a similar ceremony in the state that you’re visiting.

Some states choose to pass on pardoning their turkeys – Minnesota usually give theirs to charity to feed the hungry.

3. Thanksgiving Day parades

This year will be the 91st Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®; more than 8,000 participants, including clowns, balloon handlers and marching bands, will march through Manhattan with more than 3.5 million spectators and more than 50 million television viewers nationwide watching them.

The parade dates back to the 1920s when many of the immigrant workers at Macy’s department store were keen to celebrate the American holiday with the sort of festival their parents had thrown in Europe.

Parades have also become an integral part of the holiday in cities and towns across the United States, so check to see if there are any in the towns that you’ll be travelling to.

4. American Football

Watching football on Thanksgiving might seem like a modern tradition, but it actually dates all the way back to the 19th century.

In 1934, Detroit Lions owner George Richards used his connections at NBC to make the Detroit Lions vs Chicago Bears Thanksgiving game the first nationally broadcast game in NFL history. The game drew in millions of viewers from across the country and from then on watching football whilst preparing the Thanksgiving meal has become a staple tradition in America.

Here are the NFL games taking centre stage on Thanksgiving Day this year.

5. Pumpkin or pecan pie

To round off our feast of things to see and taste when visiting the States at Thanksgiving, we need to talk dessert.

If you get invited to a local friend’s home for a Thanksgiving meal, snap up the opportunity. If that’s not an option, get yourself to a good restaurant as Thanksgiving is the perfect excuse for overeating.

Pumpkin pie is a very traditional (and delicious) dessert eaten around Thanksgiving. Pecan pie comes a close second though. You could even have a go at making your own traditional American dessert with these recipes that we’ve dug up for you: pumpkin pie and pecan pie.


Want to see even more of the sights on your visit to the US? Check out these top 10 secret gems of the USA.

If you’re planning a trip to the US, get more to spend on Thanksgiving by loading your Dollar Card in advance and locking in a great rate.

Miles Hobson

Miles Hobson

Miles oversees marketing communications at FairFX. He has a passion for travel and loves to explore new cities on foot to find their hidden gems.

Leave a Reply