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English Language Institute Blog

5 Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving in New York

Original Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day is a holiday celebrated by Americans on the fourth Thursday of November. It celebrates the story of the Pilgrim’s meal with the Native Americans and is reserved as a day to spend with loved ones and for giving thanks.


#1 Eat turkey (and all the trimmings)

Thanksgiving Day meal

Most families observe with a large meal and sometimes a religious service. Many countries observe a variation of this celebration or have a different holiday along the same themes. It is common to mark the harvest season with celebratory meals and festivals of thanks within many religions and communities, a theme that dates back to ancient pagan festivals. Protestant religions have many connections to the harvest festival of Thanksgiving.

The most widely practiced ritual is the Thanksgiving meal. This usually includes turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, cranberry sauce, corn, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pies, but many feasts differ between families and cultures. Many see it as a celebration of the harvest, especially farmers, and a commemoration of the pilgrims’ successful harvest with the help of Native Americans.

At the meal, many families observe the ritual of going around the table to express what each member is thankful for. Some family members will travel long distances to attend this yearly reunion.


#2 Attend a church service

There are a few Thanksgiving traditions besides the meal. Many churches hold a special Thanksgiving Day service centered on giving thanks to God.


#3 Volunteer

Some will observe the holiday through charity work. Common activities include serving and preparing meals at homeless shelters and soup kitchens, organizing food and clothing drives, and participating in community outreach programs.


#4 Watch the New York Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macys Thanksgiving Day parade

Many cities hold large festivals or parades to honor Thanksgiving. The largest is New York’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is currently called Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

It started in 1924 and over two million people attend the parade annually. Before Americans sit down for their Thanksgiving meal, they attend or watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The annual pageant of giant balloons, floats, cheerleaders, clowns, marching bands, and theater and Broadway in New York performances is amazing to see. It’s fun to watch the parade on TV, but there’s nothing like watching the parade in person.

This year the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is on Thursday, November 28, 2019. The parade begins at 9:00 a.m. and ends around 12:00 noon. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade starts at 77th St and Central Park West and heads down to 34th Street to Macy's Herald Square.

Check out the Parade Route here.


#5 See the parade balloons be inflated

Some of the best things to see during the parade are the giant Macy’s Parade balloons. You can watch the Macy’s Parade balloons come to life. The inflation of the balloons takes place on Thanksgiving eve, the day before Thanksgiving. The balloons are inflated around the American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West at 79th St) on Wednesday, November 27 from 3:00 to 10:00 p.m.

The best place to watch this is at 77th Street and Columbus Avenue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Happy Thanksgiving!


If you would like to celebrate Thanksgiving and other American holidays, come to New York to study English. To find out more about living and studying English in New York City, visit the ELI website, contact the ELI or apply here.


WRITTEN BY BRIAN HICKEY