How South Asian Americans Make Thanksgiving Their Own

The diaspora shares what the holiday means to them — from remembering a fraught history to adapting culinary traditions and feeling gratitude.

Thanksgiving 3
For several folks in the American disapora, Thanksgiving is a continuation of Diwali celebrations

Priya Krishna


November 28, 2019


6 min

Every year, my family’s biggest gathering happens on Thanksgiving. None of us care for a holiday that asks Americans to present a dry bird as the centerpiece of the meal or forgets about the consequent massacre of Indigenous people. But it’s the only time of the year when all of us — and there are a lot of us — are off from work.

Our meal has no turkey, mashed potatoes, or green bean casserole. My parents, immigrants from India, have never liked any of that food (too bland!). We prefer a table with my mom’s greatest hits: chhole and mattar paneer with plenty of cumin rice instead of turkey; aloo ka rasa as a stew-ier, spicier treatment of mashed potatoes; and sweet and sour, fenugreek-spiked butternut squash in lieu of mushy yams.

For some, embracing Thanksgiving is not complicated. It’s one of a few major non-denominational American holidays, whose central tenets — big family gatherings, bottomless feasts — closely align with South Asian culture. It’s also a way of assimilating and feeling a sense of belonging. Every year, I look forward to this humongous gathering of aunts, uncles, and cousins. But every year, I also wonder why we, who come from a country once under the kind of colonialist rule the holiday glorifies, have assigned this holiday such great importance. And so, I asked several South Asian Americans what the holiday means to them. Here’s what they said.

Join today to read the full story.


Already a subscriber? Log in