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10 Things People Outside of the U.S. Can't Believe About Thanksgiving

What may seem normal to Americans on Thanksgiving causes serious confusion for others.

While this Thanksgiving may look very different this year than any other, it's still a whole day of eating, TV watching, and a little bit of reflecting—which sounds pretty standard, right? Well, while we as Americans have grown up celebrating this holiday our entire lives, those outside of the U.S. have tons of questions about it. From the food we eat to the holiday's history to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, there's actually a lot about Thanksgiving that's odd—and it takes an outsider to notice. Read on for some non-Americans' candid thoughts about Thanksgiving traditions, and to see how the holiday used to be celebrated, here are 11 Retro Thanksgiving Traditions That Have Become Obsolete.

Read the original article on Best Life.

"Shouldn't it be Thanksgiving lunch?"

Smiling black man having Thanksgiving lunch with his family and carving stuffed turkey at dining table, surrounded by wife and children
Drazen Zigic / Shutterstock

It may be Thanksgiving "dinner," but for some reason, most families start serving up the meal by the middle of the afternoon, if not earlier. "Shouldn't it be Thanksgiving lunch?" asked Brit Angelica Giangreco Biancheri, reflecting on her first experience of Thanksgiving in the U.S. for The Tab. "I'm slowly coming to terms with the fact that 6 p.m. is an appropriate dinner time in the U.S., but 2 p.m.? No. I refuse."

And for some entertaining things to do this Thanksgiving, here are 13 Fun Thanksgiving Games Perfect for the Whole Family.

"Mini-marshmallows…on top of potatoes?"

sweet potatoes and marshmallows

If you grew up with it, you know there's nothing like it: A crisp layer of lightly browned mini marshmallows that give way to heaps of gooey sweet potatoes, unexpectedly enhancing the light sweetness of the yams underneath. Somehow, it works. And after you encounter it as a dessert-obsessed kid, you make sure it's on the table every Thanksgiving well into adulthood.

But if you're seeing it for the first time as an adult, you'd probably react the way that Englishman Ray Walker did during his first American Thanksgiving as a student at the University of Florida. "I was handed—what was that?! It was mini-marshmallows…on top of potatoes? No, sweet potatoes? Was it a dessert? No, they said it was a casserole. A sweet-tasting casserole? I'd never heard of such a thing," he wrote for Odyssey in 2014.

But it didn't take long for Walker to become a convert: "I took a tentative bite and threw off my precautions. It was amazing."

And for more on the Thanksgiving sweets that no one ever enjoys, This Is the Most Hated Thanksgiving Dessert, Survey Says.

"Guys, turkey is terrible"

thanksgiving spread with turkey in the middle

Those outside of the U.S. question why we eat all that turkey on Thanksgiving. Hams or even well-seasoned chickens are more common celebratory dishes in other parts of the world. Yet in the U.S., we've made a rather ugly bird our star attraction. "Guys, turkey is terrible. You know this. I know this," Australian JR Thorpe wrote of his impression of the star of the Thanksgiving meal for Bustle. "I don't care if it's native to America; it's dry, tasteless, and takes ages to cook properly. You have to cover it in brine, stuff it till its ribs pop out, and slather it in cranberry sauce for the end product to actually be edible." Ouch!

"A vegetarian nightmare"


Because a massive turkey was not ridiculous enough, we Americans found a new, far more gluttonous way to celebrate Thanksgiving: a duck, stuffed inside a chicken, stuffed inside a turkey, AKA the turducken, for those who are unfamiliar.

As you can imagine, if you've never heard of it before, the mere concept of the turducken comes as a shock. And that's exactly how it hit Walker. "Emerging from the kitchen was possibly the biggest body of bird I'd ever seen, and somewhere behind it was the lady of the house," Walker wrote. "She set it on the table in front of me and a closer look revealed it was more than one bird. It was a combination of turkey, duck, AND chicken, called a turducken, or as I called it, a vegetarian nightmare."

And for more Turkey Day dishes people don't exactly love, even in the States, check out This Is the Most Hated Thanksgiving Dish, Survey Says.

"Why does an entire city grind to a halt to watch a bunch of huge balloons wander the streets?"

Snoopy float at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

There are parades in countries around the world. But what is particularly American and particular to Thanksgiving specifically are those giant Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons. Every year for decades, Americans have gathered in front of their TVs on Thanksgiving morning to watch the procession of massive hot-air balloons make their way down the streets of Manhattan. The mix of classics and more recent pop culture characters is definitely entertaining, but kind of strange when you think about it.

"I have no idea how anybody managed to convince an entire city to grind to a halt to watch a bunch of huge balloons wander the streets," Thorpe wrote. "But it sure makes for hilarious backdrops for ludicrous action films like Tower Heist."

And for more on the 2020 parade, check out All the Ways Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Will Be Different This Year.

"Stuffing, despite the name, is not stuffed anywhere"

homemade thanksgiving stuffing

When someone first tells you about this delicious thing called "stuffing," you might assume that you'd find it inside something else. Not on Thanksgiving here in America, where we serve it on the side as a beloved dish all on its own (though we do "stuff" our faces with it).

On the blog That's What She Had, a Russian woman named Yulia wrote: "As an outsider, I can name a few things that surprised me at the Thanksgiving table. Like stuffing that, despite the name, is not stuffed anywhere but is eaten along with other dishes."

"The more thanks are offered, the bigger the discounts!"

Black Friday crowds worst rated stores

While this year's sales will be far more hectic online than in person, typically, Thanksgiving is as much of a time to shop as it is to eat. But when you think about it, Black Friday is one of the oddest parts of the holiday. The door-busting, dignity-shredding seriousness with which Americans approach the retail holiday can leave onlookers baffled.

In fact, it can leave them confused about the meaning of Thanksgiving in the first place. "Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks to the shopkeepers who are going to offer huge discounts the following day," Ana Maria, from the Dominican Republic, joked to Quartz about the meaning of Thanksgiving. "The more thanks are offered, the bigger the discounts!"

And for some shopping-gone-wrong tales, check out 13 Black Friday Shopping Horror Stories You Won't Believe Are Real.

"It's the last Saturday in November, I think"

calendar with thanksgiving marked

When former BuzzFeed writer Ashly Perez asked her non-American friends on what day Thanksgiving took place, she got some answers that were close, but not quite right: An English friend said it was "the second to last weekend in November" and a Scottish friend said it was "the last Saturday in November, I think."

But can you blame them for their incorrect guesses? Holding a national holiday on a Thursday has always been an odd choice, and it's proven to be a confusing, hard-to-schedule-around celebration for decades. But, like switching to the metric system, the idea of nudging the holiday into a weekend just doesn't seem likely to catch on stateside, no matter how logical it might be.

And if you want more holiday tips and fun facts sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

"I find it hard to understand why watching football is the activity of choice"

thanksgiving football game

American football baffles most foreigners no matter when it's happening, but on Thanksgiving, the extra focus it gets makes it all the more strange. "As a Brit who knows absolutely NOTHING about American football, I find it hard to understand why watching it is the activity of choice on Thanksgiving Day," wrote Biancheri. "But to be honest, if I were to eat that colossal amount of food, I would also be so sedated that the only plausible thing to do would be to sit on the couch and watch TV, sparing only the energy to occasionally grunt at the sight of a touchdown."

And for more shows to watch this Thanksgiving, here are The Best Thanksgiving TV Episodes of All Time.

"What is so great about pumpkins?"

autumn flower composition in a pumpkin vase on a table decorated with pumpkins
Olena Antonenko / Shutterstock

Wasn't Halloween the big pumpkin holiday? It turns out, those jack-o'-lanterns were just a precursor to the main event: Thanksgiving, where pumpkin pie is the star dessert and pumpkin spice is a key ingredient.

"What is so great about pumpkins?" asked Biancheri. "My theory is that this tradition stems from the need to do something about the leftover pumpkins from Halloween."

And for more Turkey Day laughs, here are 25 Hilarious Thanksgiving Jokes You'll Eat Right Up.

Alex Daniel
A journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. Read more
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