Unit 2 Ethnographic notes about Thanksgiving by Erik Lee

Thanksgiving is a day that humans from the United States celebrate things they are thankful for. The tradition was supposedly passed down from the first colony founded by the Puritans. One way to celebrate the holiday is by having a feast or very large meal. Pictured here are some traditional Thanksgiving dinner items. A turkey with stuffing and gravy. Pumpkin pie, and some cranberry sauce. In many cases the women prepare all of the food. However, in some cases the women will prepare the food and the patriarch will prepare the turkey.



Not all humans from the United States eat their turkey. Some of them eat alternative options on Thanksgiving. Instead they eat something called Tofurky, or a celebration roast.


These celebrants of the Thanksgiving holiday also sometimes use a different name calling the holiday a Gentle Thanksgiving instead of simply Thanksgiving. There appears to be a belief that such a change to tradition makes for a better holiday.



This is a picture of a Turkey race. There are two stories told about the history of Thanksgiving. One is a traditional story from popular culture. That the Pilgrims experienced trouble in the first years of arriving on the continent and that the Native Americans helped them through the hard times. The story then claims that in gratitude for the help the Pilgrims had a feast which they invited the natives to.

Historical research like that performed by Peggy and James Baker in “Thanksgiving: a brief history” (EBSCOHost, Academic Search Complete) shows that the history of Thanksgiving is more complicated than the traditionally shared story from United States popular culture. Their research shows that what is considered the first Thanksgiving may have actually been more like a traditional English harvest festival. According to the Bakers the first Thanksgiving was “a solemn day of humiliation, to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer, in this great distress.” (pg 1) This seems to imply that the first Thanksgiving may not have been a feast at all as discussed in the link above.

Once enough food has been consumed many families then gather around the TV. One of the more recent phenomena is watching football. Initially this was mainly practiced by the men of the family. However, more recently everyone participates in watching football. Another recent phenomena occurs the following day. This is called Black Friday, it is a day when many businesses offer supposedly good prices on their products that can only be obtained on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Some people will sacrifice their whole Thanksgiving holiday waiting in line so that they can be the first to enter the shopping location where they expect to purchase something most likely to then give away during another holiday called Christmas.


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