Thanksgiving, an All American Holiday?

Thanksgiving originated as an all-American tradition, but over time, different cultures residing in the United States have incorporated their own unique traditions into the holiday. Keep on reading to learn more about how different cultures celebrate this national holiday. 

Thanksgiving originated as an all-American tradition, but over time, different cultures residing in the United States have incorporated their own unique traditions into the holiday.

The Thanksgiving Traditions that are Shared Among Other Cultures:

The once, all American holiday is typically celebrated with a central theme in mind– autumn. Like Americans, many different cultures living in the United States decorate their homes to reflect the fall. Inspired by autumn color palettes, popular decorations include autumn wreaths, pumpkins, candles, and flowers that showcase the new season. 

Latino American Thanksgiving Traditions

As mentioned, there are some similarities that exist between a Latino American Thanksgiving and an All American Thanksgiving. But, Latinos tend to celebrate the holiday by adding their own flavorful and spicy dishes into the holiday.

When we think of the typical Thanksgiving, we usually imagine a dinner consisting of turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. However, in Latino American households, the food list goes on and on!

While many Latino Americans choose to have the traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner, many others chose to opt for tamales, mole, pupusas, or marinated roast pork featuring bold flavors and authentic ingredients. Champurrado, ponche caliente, and delicious flan tend to be a part of the festivities as well.


Flan Source: Px

Besides differing in their menu selections, most Latino Americans feature loud and lively music to celebrate the holiday. Because Latinos are strongly family oriented, their Thanksgivings may also involve abuelito telling stories about his childhood and the children playing together in the sala.  

Indigenous “Thanks Taking” Traditions

In San Jose, CA, Calpulli Tonalehqueh, Akoma Arts, New Fire/Yancuic Xihuitl, and others join in solidarity with the International Indian Treaty Council, to commemorate all indigenous cultures and traditions in a sunrise gathering. They unite Native, Mexica and African drums to honor the heartbeat of Mother Earth.

This Sunrise Gathering originated as Un-Thanksgiving Day to honor the indigenous peoples of the Americas and to promote their rights. It coincides with a similar protest, the National Day of Mourning, held in Massachusetts.

Annual SJ Thanks Taking Sunrise Ceremony Source: Caluplli Tonalehqueh

The event is designed to commemorate the survival of Native American peoples following the settlement of Europeans in the Western Hemisphere, which led to enormous losses among Indians from disease, warfare, and social disruption. Organizers want it to serve as a contrast to the traditional Thanksgiving story in which the Pilgrims peacefully shared a meal with Native Americans.

Vietnamese American Thanksgiving Traditions

After immigrating to the United States, many Vietnamese have become fond of Thanksgiving festivities as well. Charles Lam, a Vietnamese American from Asian Weekly mentions, “Because my parents were born and raised in Vietnam, you could say that my “regular” Thanksgiving has always been a little … skewed.”

He mentions that his family has always made sure to make Thanksgiving special. Even when his dad had to work at night, he and his family would have a “Thanksgiving lunch” in lieu of the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner.

He remembers that when his family first celebrated the holiday, their dinner consisted of roasted duck, pork, Vietnamese baguettes, and Vietnamese spread.

Vietnamese Baguettes Source: Hungry Forever

Lam admits that even though his family has become more adapted to American traditions, as their dinner now features turkey and mashed potatoes, it is still a Vietnamese dinner. He mentions, “We still eat baguette over rolls, there’s still no sprig of rosemary anywhere in my house, and that beef roast is marinated with soy sauce, fish sauce, and lemongrass. That stuffing? It’s made up of glass noodles, boiled quail eggs, and baby corn. It’s still a Vietnamese Thanksgiving meal.”


Portuguese American Thanksgiving Traditions

Portuguese Thanksgiving Stuffing Source: Portuguese Diner

Many Portuguese Americans have also chosen to embrace the once, All American tradition of Thanksgiving by bringing their own Thanksgiving traditions into the mix. Like Americans, they may feast on a delicious dinner featuring turkey. However, many Portuguese Americans add their own special flair to it by incorporating their Portuguese stuffing into it. Check out this awesome Portuguese Thanksgiving stuffing recipe here.

While other cultures would typically not serve seafood during their Thanksgiving, according to the Sun Sentinel, some Portuguese families do. Rodeiro, a Portuguese American who was interviewed by the Sun mentions, “It’s hard to bring our own culture into something we don’t have. So the only thing we can do is bring the food”.

While Portuguese Americans are at the table, they alternate between English and Portuguese as they feast. Thus, incorporating their culture into the holiday.

Kooltura’s Approach to Multicultural Marketing

At Kooltura Marketing, our goal is to help build community connection and cultural insight that is essential to multicultural marketing. As a strategy, we incorporate research studies, data, and our own cultural experiences while working closely in culturally rich communities.

If your organization or business is interested in reaching a specific ethnicity, culture, and/or subculture in San Jose, CA and the larger Bay Area, do not hesitate to contact us today. We offer marketing consulting, social media management and branding.

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