A Look at Traditional Thanksgiving Dishes

November is a special month for our friends across the pond and with so many of our American friends based here in Ireland we decided to take a look at what a traditional Thanksgiving entails. Thanksgiving is arguably a more important holiday stateside than Christmas. Celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. The Thanksgiving tradition stems from the colonial Pilgrims’ 1621 harvest meal, but it wasn’t until 200 years later that then president Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November to be a national day of Thanksgiving. In 1941, Congress officially declared it an official national holiday and so it has remained since.

Each year, the holiday continues to be an opportunity for Americans to gather together and indulge in a day of feasting, football and family. Given the limited amount of holidays in the US, families embrace the opportunity to spend time together and travel vast distances to be with each other. According to statistics, Thanksgiving is the busiest day on American roads. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a long held Thanksgiving tradition and is watched by nearly 50 million people with over 3 million people attending the event in person. Football is another Thanksgiving Day tradition with most families watching it on the TV or indeed organising their own battles on the field – if Ross and Monica taught us anything, it was just how competitive these family traditions can become. 

However, most Thanksgiving traditions in the US are related to – you guessed it, food. Similar to Christmas Day among Irish families, Thanksgiving celebrations revolve a lot around the meal. While every family have their own meal time traditions and family recipes handed down from generation to generation, it is highly likely that most Thanksgiving tables with be adorned with a glistening Turkey with all the trimmings.


With approximately 46 million turkeys eaten at Thanksgiving, it’s no wonder that the Americans know a thing or two about cooking turkey with most opting to brine their bird overnight for a more succulent flavour.

Side dishes run the gamut from Green Bean Casserole, to Candied Yams, Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing and Cranberry Sauce to name just a few.

The strangest side dish is probably a traditional Sweet Potato Casserole which is a cloyingly sweet concoction of mashed sweet potatoes mixed with cinnamon, brown sugar, vanilla and pecans, topped with marshmallow and baked until golden. With Turkey. Most Americans that I know swear by this dish, but I remain sceptical. That said, I will try anything once, so this year I might just put my theory to the test.

Traditions are one thing, but dessert with dinner is quite another. Speaking of which, Thanksgiving dessert usually consists of a selection of pies including Pecan Pie, Apple Pie with a Cheddar Crust or even more Sweet Potato Pie. 

Needless to say, post dinner traditions in most families consist of watching holiday movies, or snoozing on the couch. Sounds just like Christmas to me……


Feature By: Ciara McQuillan

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