The International Student’s Guide To Celebrating Thanksgiving Day

Unless you used to live under a rock, you were aware of Thanksgiving Day way before moving to America. You’ve seen the TV show episodes (who could ever forget the iconic turkey head in Friends?), watched the viral videos of people going crazy on Black Friday, and followed your favorite celebrities as they performed on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Now that you live in the US, celebrating your first Thanksgiving Day is a rite of passage – kind of like having your first awkward interaction while trying to order at Chipotle in English and messing up every single thing you say (I can’t be the only one right?!) If you’re absolutely clueless as to what to expect (and how not to end up spending your break rewatching Stranger Things), we’re here to help.

Learn the history. Thanksgiving Day is a very important American tradition and you should figure out why! Per the most reliable source of information in our generation (aka Wikipedia), “The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. This feast lasted three days, and—as accounted by attendee Edward Winslow it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgivings”—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.”

Learn the foods. Turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, and cranberry sauce. Sums it up, really.

Crash a party. As an international student your friends and professors know you probably won’t be going home for Thanksgiving and more likely than not, they would be more than happy to invite you over for dinner. Who knows – your roommate might even invite you to embark on the 7 hour journey to their hometown and spend all weekend with their family. A true American experience. Of course, be polite and don’t invite yourself to any celebrations – make sure the invitation comes from them first. And don’t forget to bring some pumpkin pie!

Go to dinner. Most restaurants have fixed Thanksgiving Day menus or buffets where you can try all of the all-American Thanksgiving foods. Why not get together with your international buddies and have a feast?! You know you have a lot to be thankful for.

Celebrate with your family. Having your foreign family in the US for Thanksgiving is so fun. Obviously this is not an option for everyone but the greatest experience if they’re able to join you for the holiday.

Buy things. Black Friday is more like Black Week these days. With crazy deals starting on Monday and ending the following week (on Cyber Monday) – do not miss out on the opportunity to engage in the American consumerism we all love. Go to the mall. Go on Amazon. Find the perfect leather jacket.

Play Turkey Bowl. This is when families go to their backyards and play a casual (yet competitive) game of American football. Please note that participation in this event does not replace watching tons of football on Thanksgiving Day.

Run a Turkey Trot. It’s a race on Thanksgiving Day. Perfect way to burn those calories before you eat them all back in the form of stuffing.

Be thankful. You are so lucky to be living and studying in this wonderful country. Even in difficult times we all have something to be thankful for. So count your blessings and celebrate this important American holiday the way you want. After all, you’re creating your own new traditions.

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