What does Thanksgiving mean for immigrants?

21 Nov 2022 - Category: Blog /
thanksgiving foreigners

Thanksgiving Day is one of the most important celebrations in the United States. Perhaps only surpassed by the 4th of July, Thanksgiving is a national event that is also enjoyed by immigrants from all over the world who live in the United States.

Indeed, the United States is a country founded by immigrants. Therefore there is an intrinsic link between immigrants and Thanksgiving that has existed since its inception, in the year 1620, when the pilgrims arrived from Europe. It is an occasion of celebration centered around family and food that has gained more relevance, due, among other reasons, to the diversity of origins that make up the American population in the twenty-first century.

Today, many immigrants celebrate Thanksgiving in their own ways, merging traditions and cuisines from their home nations with those classic American Thanksgiving treats.

Below we highlight a number of topics to do with Thanksgiving and what Thanksgiving means for immigrants today, including:

The History of Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving tradition began when a colony of English migrants, known as Pilgrims, settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts, with the purpose of finding freedom to worship outside of Europe. When winter came, more than half of the colony died from hunger, cold and disease. Those who managed to survive settled in that region.

In 1621 these Pilgrims met the Native Americans of the Wampanoag tribe, from whom they learned to grow corn and fish. In the fall of that year the Pilgrims harvested their first harvest.

William Bradford, the first governor of Plymouth, proposed setting aside a day to give thanks for food. The settlers invited the Indians to their celebration and shared turkey, fish, dried fruit, and pumpkins.

The first time Thanksgiving was officially celebrated was on July 30, 1623. However, the celebration was not continued due to problems between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln succeeded in establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday. It was to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November each year.

While this story is the one that has been readily accepted and taught for many years, there is also evidence to suggest that Thanksgiving had different origins.

Some records show that immigrants celebrated a form of Thanksgiving before 1621, such as the Thanksgiving Mass held on September 8, 1565 with some 600 Spanish settlers who had landed in what is now St. Augustine, Florida.

Other evidence speaks of a Spanish expedition that after its rest, near El Paso, Texas, celebrated a Thanksgiving Mass on April 30, 1598; and the Mass celebrated by 38 English settlers from Berkeley Hundred on December 4, 1619.

What is the meaning of Thanksgiving?

For Americans and immigrants alike, Thanksgiving is about sharing, giving thanks and spending quality time with loved ones.

This meaning is represented in the harvest of the pilgrims, thanks to the help of the natives. Today, this meaning can be seen to be symbolized by the food served at Thanksgiving dinners, such as the turkey stuffed with vegetables, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

On Thanksgiving many American families come together to share these and other foods. In addition, each year, the president will pardon a turkey - the main meat course of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

How do immigrants celebrate Thanksgiving?

The United States is a country rich with diversity, culture and the number of traditions they have exported to other countries. Equally, the U.S. has also assimilated hundreds of distinct cultures by receiving immigrants from all over the world.

As a result there is no one single and definitive way that Thanksgiving is celebrated. People from a variety of cultures, countries and cities all have their own take on Thanksgiving. Immigrants, like many American citizens, mark this celebration by gathering their family and friends together to share a banquet.

However, there are many ways to celebrate Thanksgiving. Immigrants from a variety of countries have incorporated their own food and traditions to make Thanksgiving authentic and interesting for them. For example, some Hispanic and Latino Americans celebrate Día de Acción de Gracias with their own traditional music, food and festivities.

Latinos have a party spirit and, today, their celebrations with friends, family, neighbors, coworkers are a centerpiece of Thanksgiving for many neighborhoods and communities across the U.S. Many Hispanic immigrants celebrate Thanksgiving in their own way, adding their customs and favorite foods, so that in a non-American home a delicious baked or roasted turkey can be found on the table along with any other Latin American delicacy such as Arroz con Gandules, Chicharrones and Empanadas.

What does Thanksgiving mean to immigrants and foreigners today?

Throughout the history of the U.S. there has been a certain disconnect between immigrants and Thanksgiving celebrations. However, in recent years, as the scope of Thanksgiving celebrations have expanded, more immigrants have embraced the holiday and shaped Thanksgiving with their own traditions.

Today, millions of immigrants have a close, personal relationship with Thanksgiving. Many immigrants feel grateful to have been received in a country that offers them the opportunity to thrive and succeed.

There are around 45 million immigrants living in the United States and they are all looking for a better future. Many flee violence, economic problems, political, religious or family conflicts, and, upon arriving in the U.S., are looking for a country that is welcoming and offers them a certain stability. Thanksgiving is a day that highlights the good things about the U.S. and serves as a reminder for many immigrants as to why they made the move.

In addition, it’s worth remembering that each year Thanksgiving also marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, kickstarting an economic shift and activating the spirit of sharing and celebration.

How to send money from the U.S.

Learning about Thanksgiving is a great way to ensure that you can take part in American traditions and get involved with others within your community in the U.S. As an immigrant living in the U.S., as well as celebrating Thanksgiving, you may also be thinking about what you can do for your loved ones back home. If you live in the U.S. and you want to start supporting your loved ones living abroad, Small World can help.

Small World is an international money transfer service that helps millions around the world send money to their loved ones. There are a number of transfer services you can use if you are based in the United States and you want to support your loved ones abroad, including cash pickup and bank deposit.

Your first digital transaction is always free of transfer fees!

Cookies Policy

At Small World, we use own and third-party cookies to give you the best browsing experience possible, as well as being able to analyse your browsing behaviour. You can accept all cookies by clicking the "ACCEPT ALL COOKIES" button or configure or reject their use by clicking the "COOKIE SETTINGS" button. Click on our Cookie Policy for more information