American Culture

Thanksgiving traditions and why we love them

Want to prepare for Thanksgiving, one of the most popular holidays in the USA? Get to know the five F’s of Thanksgiving: Family, Friends, Food, Football and Finding Deals.

Family & FriendsKUthanksgiving

How important is celebrating with loved ones? So important it gets two of the five F’s. And it comes before Food (that’s when you know things are serious). This tradition of spending Thanksgiving with family and friends is why Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel times in the USA.

Many of your fellow students will leave campus this weekend and go to a relative’s house. Like many international students, you might not get a chance to fly home for the weekend. And that’s okay, because this gives you a chance to experience American Thanksgiving!

In fact, a popular activity for international students is to spend Thanksgiving with an American friend’s family. After all, friends are the family you get to choose. So if you haven’t already, consider asking your roommate or friend if you can spend the holiday with them. Remember that it’s polite to bring your host a gift, such as flowers, candy or something to drink. Many stores are closed on Thanksgiving day, so try to pick this up earlier in the week.

If you don’t want to travel, another option is to celebrate with other students who’ll be around school too. This option is so common, especially among students, that it has a nickname: “Friendsgiving.”


If there’s one thing most Americans can agree on, it’s how important it is to share meals together. Some of the most cherished Thanksgiving traditions are based on food. For instance, cooking with family recipes, sharing fun stories at the dinner table and using silverware passed down from generation to generation. Thanksgiving combines being thankful for today while also respecting our history.

A typical Thanksgiving dinner includes a LOT of food. Why? Because of Friends and Family. When someone hosts Thanksgiving dinner at their home, there’s likely to be a large group of hungry people. So expect a lot of:


  • Roast turkey
  • Mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Stuffing (bread, onions, celery and sometimes fruits, nuts or sausage)
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Vegetables (such as sweet potatoes, green beans or corn)
  • Pumpkin pie

Don’t worry if you don’t get to try a certain dish at dinner. There will likely be at least one more chance to sample the leftover food the next day.

If you’re staying local and don’t have a kitchen for cooking, make a reservation at a local restaurant – many will be open since not everyone likes to cook at home for the holiday.


Thanksgiving Dinner on campus!

This year, KU AAP joined the International Student Association as a key sponsor for the International Thanksgiving Dinner. Things we brought over? Big Turkey, 6 side dishes of traditional American food and a big Russian dish – Plov for 10 people! Plus, 5 AAPers also served as volunteers during the event!


Another popular tradition on Thanksgiving is watching football. If you haven’t seen a game yet, this is a great chance to do so. Plus, it’s a good excuse to sit on the couch – that’s a popular Thanksgiving activity, too.

Usually there are three games on Thanksgiving, so there’s one happening all throughout the day. Feel free to ask some questions during the game about what’s happening and why. If you’re with people who are very passionate about football, wait until commercials are on to ask questions. That way, you get to learn without distracting anyone.

Finding Deals

Maybe you’ve heard about “Black Friday,” or the day after Thanksgiving? The nickname comes from the accounting term “being in the black,” which means being profitable. Stores make a lot of money that day because it’s the start of the busy holiday shopping season.

To encourage shopping, many stores will offer big discounts on popular and expensive items. Quantities are limited, so some eager people get in line hours before the stores open. Expect long lines, aggressive shoppers and, if you’re lucky, some good deals.

If you want to save money but avoid the crowds, consider waiting until the Monday after Thanksgiving. It’s called “Cyber Monday,” because many online retailers offer big savings. Want to get some gifts for loved ones back home or a little treat for yourself? This is a good time to check out prices.

All the photos in this post are taken at this year’s KU International Thanksgiving Dinner.

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