Some Changes in the Celebration of Thanksgiving Over the Years

…several changes have occurred in American Thanksgiving Day celebrations in their more than 350-year history. Few households now serve mince pie, a onetime tradition. The focus on hunting and wild game is reduced (Ramsey 1979); the emphasis on the bounty of agriculture has increased. Churchgoing is now rare. Prayer persists for some but is combined or replaced with a more secular meal-opening toast for many. The home-centered, active family games that were once prevalent (Applebaum 1984) are often replaced by the passive spectacle of professional sports and nationally broadcast parades hosted by department stores and filled with commercial floats. Hosting by the grandparent’s household is giving way to hosting by the middle generation. And, most directly important for an understanding of contemporary consumer culture, a profusion of branded products rather than foods produced by the household are consumed. Through taken-for granted acceptance of changes, participants perceive universalism in their celebrations when, in fact, the praxis of their feasting is particular to contemporary times and household groups.

Melanie Wallendorf & Eric J. Arnold, “‘We Gather Together’: Consumption Rituals of Thanksgiving Day”, The Journal of Consumer Research 18, No. 1 (June 1991), 24.

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