Category Archives: Culture

Thanksgiving: A uniquely American harvest festival

Harvest festivals are celebrated all over the world and Thanksgiving Day, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November is one of them. However, there is something special about the way this harvest festival is enjoyed in modern day US. While harvest festivals in other countries tend to take regional and religious tones (for example, Baisakhi and Onam in India), Thanksgiving remains a uniquely secular festival enjoyed by Americans of all ethnicities, color and religion. It has evolved from its origins of early settlers giving thanks for the bountiful harvest and freedom of religion to an occasion when families get together to eat and give thanks for the simple pleasures in life.

Of course, everything is not hunky dory from coast to coast on Thanksgiving day and this day is capable of evoking different emotions in different people. For some, it is a day to sit on the couch, drink some beer and watch a couple of football games on the TV, while for some, this is a day when they are stuck in traffic or at the airport making that yearly trip back home to their families while for some guys, this is a day when they would be running around trying to find an open grocery store just because the night before, the wife forgot to put that crucial ingredient to prepare that special Thanksgiving meal on the shopping list (yes, that happened to yours truly last year). Of course, in an ultimately ode to Capitalism in the land that almost worships the concept, for most Americans, this day is inexorably linked to the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade and the early morning shopping deals the day after Thanksgiving. And then, for many native Americans, this day probably evokes mixed reactions. While on one hand, the entire country celebrates a tradition that started at the table of their ancestors and the first settlers, it is also linked to the tragedies and massacres they suffered at hands of the descendants of those very settlers.

Coming from a country that celebrates hundreds, if not thousands of festivals, I am always game to add a few new ones to my repertoire and I have taken to Thanksgiving like a fish takes to water (as Will Ferrell says in Anchorman, “When in Rome….”). Last year, we hit upon this brilliant idea that a bunch of Indians should dress up as, well, Indians on this day and the result was a lot of fun. While I don’t have any such plans for this year, I can’t wait to put an Indian spin (pun intended) on this uniquely American festival and contribute my own bit to this continually evolving tradition. I would love to know how other Desis visiting and reading this post plan to celebrate Thanksgiving.