Don't be a jerk to people working on Thanksgiving

So, I’ve seen a variantion on this a lot:

  • It’s Thanksgiving.
  • Bob wants some delicious ice cream to put on his pie.
  • He forgot to buy it before Thanksgiving 
  • So he goes to the grocery store to get some.
  • He sees some people working in the store
  • Bob feels guilty because those people don’t get to be home with their families like he does. Or offended that people are dishonoring the holiday by working on it.
  • So he says something like “Working on Thanksgiving! That’s terrible.” Or “Wow, they have you working today? On a holiday?!”

This is obnoxious. If you buy stuff in a store on Thanksgiving, don’t do this to the people working there. The store is open because people, including you, want to shop in the store. The people who are working on Thanksgiving are making it possible for you to buy things on Thanksgiving. It’s important to be respectful about that.

If you have a problem with stores being open on Thanksgiving, consider not shopping on Thanksgiving. And consider taking it up with the owners or corporate office. Don’t take it out on the people who have to work on Thanksgiving. It’s not their fault, and they’re very likely not doing it willingly. 

If you want to say something to acknowledge the situation, say thank you. Don’t dump your feelings of guilt on someone who is working on Thanksgiving - that won’t do them any good. Instead, either just buy the stuff normally, or say something like “Thank you for opening. I really appreciate being able to buy these things.”

tl;dr Be respectful towards people who work in stores on Thanksgiving. Don’t judge them and don’t dump guilty feelings on them. 

If you don't celebrate Thanksgiving

How much judgement and unpleasantness is it likely to attract to decline celebrating thanksgiving? I know people get mad when you start decorating for Christmas before it, so, how important is it?

realsocialskills said:

The thing where people complain about decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving isn’t necessarily about Thanksgiving per se. It’s sometimes mostly about the fact that Christmas makes all of December really stressful and expensive. People don’t want Christmas to expand and make October and November equally expensive and stressful.

If Thanksgiving is important to your family, they will probably be angry or at least very annoyed if you decide not to celebrate it with them. (That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to decide not to. It’s your choice, and everyone with a family sometimes does things that annoy or anger relatives.)

If you just personally don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, most people won’t care. Some people will probably be obnoxious and judgmental, but probably not in dangerous ways. 

If you speak in a way that suggests that you *object* to celebrating Thanksgiving, that will seriously offend some people. Eg: if you say one of these things:

  • “Why is gluttony something to celebrate?”
  • “Thanksgiving is racist.”
  • “Thanksgiving? You mean murdered factory farmed turkey day?”
  • “I have better things to do.”
  • “I only celebrate real holidays.”

(Note: It’s not necessarily always *wrong* to offend people or object to the way they observe a holiday. It’s just worth knowing that if you object to something that someone else considers to be an important part of their culture, they are likely to be seriously offended, no matter how legitimate your objections are.)

If you say something like this, people are less likely to be offended:

  • “No, I don’t have plans.”
  • “I’m actually planning to sit on my couch and watch every Star Wars movie.”
  • “Actually, we don’t celebrate holidays in my religion.”
  • “I’m not really a Thanksgiving person.”

tl;dr It’s ok if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving; celebrating holidays is a personal choice. Some people might be obnoxious about it, but most people won’t care that much unless you’re related to them, or you say/imply that they shouldn’t celebrate it either.

In addition to the reasons you listed, some people don’t celebrate Thanksgiving because they’re immigrants or children of immigrants and just don’t relate to this very North American holiday. In my immigrant family it’s sort of optional; we do have a turkey most years, but we sometimes don’t, and it’s definitely not the kind of holiday that’s worth traveling cross-country for.

Some people don't celebrate Thanksgiving

In the United States, some people think of Thanksgiving as “the holiday everyone celebrates”, in part because it is celebrated by many people who don’t celebrate Christmas. But not everyone in the US celebrates Thanksgiving, and it’s important to acknowledge this. 

Some reasons some people don’t celebrate;

  • Thanksgiving has racist origins and is still used to teach racist ideas about Pilgrims and Indians.
  • (United American Indians of New England holds an annual Day of Mourning protest against Thanksgiving)
  • Some people follow religions that prohibit celebrating holidays, or that prohibit celebrating non-religious holidays
  • Some people have eating disorders that make food-based holidays triggering or unpleasant
  • Some people are alienated from family and find celebrating holidays unbearable
  • Some people just don’t like it, or don’t want to
  • Or any number of other reasons

If you celebrate Thanksgiving, don’t be a jerk to people who don’t. They have their reasons, which are their business and not yours. Don’t try to insist to them that everyone celebrates Thanksgiving, and don’t complain to others about their practices.

And especially, don’t suggest that not celebrating Thanksgiving means that they are somehow opposing broad values like gratitude, togetherness, delicious food, love, or peace. It just means they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving for whatever reason.

Some people don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, and that’s ok. You can connect with them at other times. Don’t be a jerk about the fact that there’s one day of the year where your practices are different than theirs.

Vegetarian happiness on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a holiday focused around coming together and eating a big delicious meal. The traditional version of the meal centers around eating a turkey, and many traditional side dishes also contain meat.

This can make Thanksgiving unpleasant for vegetarians and for people who want their vegetarian friends and relatives to eat Thanksgiving dinner with them. With some planning ahead, this is a problem that can be solved.

Some general principles:

  • Since the meal is centered around being big and delicious, it’s much nicer if vegetarians also get very delicious things to eat
  • Some things that often have meat in them can also be made delicious without meat
  • Vegetarians need protein as much as meat eaters do
  • Vegetarians don’t want to eat things that are made of meat or flavored with meat

Some examples of common Thanksgiving foods other than turkey that vegetarians probably won’t want to eat:

  • Pie that contains lard or schmaltz
  • Brussels sprouts that contain bacon bits
  • Green beans made with bacon
  • Gravy made from turkey drippings
  • Stuffing that has been inside a turkey
  • Stuffing made with chicken broth
  • Anything else with meat or meat derivatives in it

Some thoughts on how to make food options for vegetarians:

  • Artichokes are delicious, especially with dip. If that’s one of the vegetable side dishes, it can be a happy thing for vegetarians to eat
  • If you make mashed potatoes and meat gravy, serve them separately, and use separate spoons so that the potatoes won’t become meaty
  • Consider also making vegetarian mushroom gravy. It’s delicious and will mean that vegetarians get to share in the deliciousness of potatoes and gravy
  • Bake some stuffing outside the turkey (safer anyway), and use vegetable broth or wine or something else non-meat and delicious rather than chicken broth to flavor it
  • Use butter/vegetable shortening instead of lard/schmaltz for pies
  • It’s ok not to make all the sides vegetarian, but make sure it’s clear what has meat in it and what doesn’t. Vegetarians don’t like surprise bacon.
  • Some vegetarians enjoy Tofurkey fake turkey roasts
  • Find out whether they eat fish. (Some people who identify as vegetarian do, and fish can be a good delicious protein source for those who eat it. Don’t assume in either direction. Ask.)
  • Ask them to bring or make something delicious and vegetarian for the meal. Group contributions are fairly normal in Thanksgiving meals, and most vegetarians have something delicious they like to make/share

tl;dr If you’re making a Thanksgiving meal and inviting vegetarians, the meal will be much more fun for everyone if you include delicious vegetarian dishes in your meal and avoid feeding them side dishes with stealth meat. Scroll back up for examples and concrete suggestions.

Anyone want to weigh in? Vegetarians who celebrate Thanksgiving: what do you like to eat? What makes you the most comfortable at a meal hosted by meat eaters? People who host vegetarians at a meal meal: what have you done that worked for everyone? What would you like vegetarians to do to make it work for you?

Celebrating Thanksgiving if you won't be with family

American Thanksgiving is this Thursday.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that tends to be very focused on family togetherness. This can be difficult if you don’t have family, can’t get home to be with your family, aren’t welcome at Thanksgiving, don’t want to be with family, or otherwise are going to be alone.

Not being with family on Thanksgiving doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you can’t celebrate (although it’s entirely fine if you decide that you’d rather opt out of Thanksgiving). Here are some things that some people might want to do:

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:

  • In NYC, Macy’s puts on a big parade every year. 
  • You can also watch them inflate the big parade balloons the day before. (Their faq specifies: Join us for the Macy’s Giant Balloon Inflation from 3pm to 10pm on the day before Thanksgiving. You can enter the special balloon inflation areas surrounding the Museum of Natural History beginning at 79th Street and Columbus Avenue.)
  • The Macy’s Parade is also televised and will probably be on TV in your area too

Local parades:

  • Many (probably most) towns in the US put on a parade of some sort 
  • If you google “(your town) thanksgiving parade”, you will probably find a parade near you
  • Smaller town parades tend to be mostly made up of community groups and organizations and businesses
  • For instance, there will likely be floats made by boy and girl scouts, dog trainers with dogs, employees of a copy shop carrying a banner, and that sort of thing
  • It can be much less overwhelming than a professional parade, and it can be a good way to find out more about what organizations and businesses are active in your area

Organized religion:

  • Some churches have Thanksgiving services
  • There are also often interfaith Thanksgiving events that work for non-Christians (Although those tend to be decidedly Abrahamic)
  • Unitarian Universalist churches sometimes have events that are comfortable for people who don’t identify as religious or believe in God 

Cooking or eating turkey:

  • If you strongly associate Thanksgiving with turkey, making or eating turkey might feel like celebration
  • It doesn’t necessarily have to be a whole turkey
  • Stores usually sell turkey breasts and drumsticks separately if you just want those
  • You also might be able to buy some already-prepared turkey
  • You can also get turkey lunchmeat or turkey sausages or turkey burgers

Cooking or eating other traditional food:

  • Many grocery stores and restaurants sell already-cooked Thanksgiving food
  • (You may need to order it in advance. You can find out by checking your local grocery store’s website)
  • Grocery stores sell pumpkin pies, both frozen and fully cooked. They also sell cans of pumpkin and cans of pumpkin pie filling, and pre-made crusts. Pumpkin pie can be fairly easy to make if you prefer to make it yourself
  • You might want to make stuffing. You can make stuffing without a turkey
  • You also might want to make mashed potatoes and gravy. You can also do that without a turkey (especially if you make mushroom gravy).

Thanking people:

  • Most people like to be appreciated
  • It might be worth thinking about who you’re grateful to, and why
  • And then telling them
  • One way to do this is by sending emails
  • If you are into crafts, another way to do this is by making cards for people you want to thank
  • (It’s generally not good to call people on Thanksgiving unless you know they’re not with family or otherwise absorbed in in-person Thanksgiving observances) 
  • Don’t be creepy  (Eg: Don’t say things like “I am grateful that you wear flattering tops. Your cleavage really brightens my day.”)
  • Don’t say backhanded things (Eg: “I’m thankful that you don’t make so many expensive mistakes anymore”)
  • Say things that are true, and things they’re likely to want to hear (eg: “Thank you for your help showing me how to use the perplexing software on the big project. It really helped me to learn how to make the cat pictures sufficiently hilarious and adorable.”)

Other types of gratitude:

  • For some people, focusing on things they’re thankful for is an important part of Thanksgiving
  • (It’s ok if this doesn’t work for you or if you don’t want to. It’s a good thing for some people to do; it’s not right for everyone.)
  • Writing a list of things you’re thankful for might work
  • Or drawing pictures of things you’re thankful for
  • Or, if you’re religious, thanking God for things you’re thankful for 

Noticing things that are awesome:

  • If gratitude doesn’t work for you, noticing stuff that is awesome might
  • A lot of things are awesome. Making lists of things that are awesome can be very enjoyable for some people
  • (Some things I personally think are awesome: marbles, rocks, the Talmud, King of the Hill, caramelized onions, Tumblr, my friends, and kittens. Your milage may vary.)

Hosting a meal with friends:

  • You might have friends who also aren’t going to be with family on Thanksgiving
  • It might be worth having a Thanksgiving meal together
  • Or getting together to do something else (like having some pie or watching a movie)

Watching football

  • For some reason there are a lot of football games on Thanksgiving
  • If you like that sort of thing, you might enjoy watching football in a sports bar
  • (Note that sports bars are often filled with fanatical fans of a particular team who are mean to people they perceive as fans of the opposing team. If you don’t know which team people in a particular bar like, it’s better not to wear team clothing or colors associated with one of the teams.)


  • I know that some people like to volunteer on and around Thanksgiving
  • Many people who want to volunteer on Thanksgiving end up being fairly annoying to organizations they want to volunteer for
  • (Because organizations can only use so many people at a time, and most organizations need a lot more help than they get almost every other day of the year)
  • I don’t know much about how to volunteer on Thanksgiving in an actually-useful way
  • I’m mentioning this option in hopes that someone reading this will know more about it than I do

Reading Thanksgiving-themed stories or fandom:

Community events:

  • There might be community organizations holding Thanksgiving events or meals
  • For instance, in many areas there is a Vegetarian Society that hosts a vegetarian thanksgiving meal.
  • These generally welcome anyone who wants to attend, even if you normally eat meat

If you are a student:

  • If you are a student, you can probably get an invitation to a local family for Thanksgiving
  • If you’re Christian, you can likely arrange this through one of the campus Christian organizations. If you’re Jewish, you can likely arrange this through Hillel.
  • There are also probably secular ways to arrange this. If you ask your Student Life office, they can probably help you.
  • If you want to do this, ask right away, before people leave for break

tl;dr There are things to do on Thanksgiving that don’t require getting together with your family. Scroll back up for concrete suggestions.

what stores (if any) don’t participate in black friday sales? in other words, what sorts of places is it safe to go without being mobbed?

realsocialskills said:

I don’t know if there are any stores that don’t participate at all. Gas stations and convenience stores are less likely to participate than most other stores. Grocery stores and small pharmacies are also less likely to participate. 

I think that most of the extreme stuff happens fairly early in the day though. 

The basic way Black Friday works is:

  • Stores advertise deep discounts on a popular thing
  • There are only a few of that thing actually available.
  • Lots of people want the thing, so they show up at the store very early in the day to try and buy the thing
  • Chaos ensues because a lot of people are there, and most of them aren’t going to get the thing they want most
  • A lot of people buy a lot of other things

This really extreme part happens early in the day, before they run out of the deeply discounted items. Stores stay crowded with shoppers all day, and that doesn’t entirely go away until after Christmas, but they’re not quite as intense or scary once the limited discounts have run out.