An aerial view of assorted autumnal harvest items including gourds, candles, berries, leaves and foliage artfully arranged on a wooden surface.

The Psychology of Embracing Diverse Thanksgiving Traditions

Writer’s Note 

To my fellow readers: As we approach Thanksgiving, peeling back the layers of this seemingly joyous occasion is essential. Beyond the turkey and festive cheer lies a historical narrative marked by the complex dynamics of colonization. The tales of unity often overshadow the painful realities of displacement, cultural erasure, and trauma experienced by Native American communities.

Thanksgiving becomes a nuanced tapestry where gratitude coexists with the grief of historical injustices. In acknowledging this complexity, we foster a more honest understanding of the holiday's roots. Let's dive into our shared history, uncovering Thanksgiving's layers with compassion. Acknowledge complexities, embrace empathy and inclusion, and contribute to a narrative respecting diverse perspectives. Together, let's shape a richer understanding of our collective history, encouraging thoughtful reflection on the true meaning of Thanksgiving.


Thanksgiving, a holiday that has evolved over centuries, offers an opportunity for us to come together, express gratitude, and celebrate the diversity of traditions that make up our society. Beyond the iconic Thanksgiving turkey, there is a rich tapestry of customs and rituals that people from various backgrounds bring to the table. In this psychology blog, we delve into the psychological aspects of embracing different Thanksgiving traditions.

A Brief History 

The history of colonization in the context of Thanksgiving is marked by the encounter between European settlers and Native American communities in the early 17th century. Pilgrims, seeking religious freedom, arrived in present-day Massachusetts in 1620. The Wampanoag people, already residing in the region, played a crucial role in assisting the Pilgrims, sharing knowledge of local agriculture and forming a brief alliance.

The traditional Thanksgiving story often focuses on a harmonious feast between Pilgrims and Wampanoag, portraying a narrative of unity and gratitude. However, this narrative oversimplifies a complex history. The subsequent colonization process involved displacement, cultural disruption, and the erosion of indigenous autonomy. Native American communities faced the impact of diseases brought by Europeans, loss of lands, and cultural suppression.

Cultural Appreciation and Empathy

Thanksgiving is no longer bound by its historical origins and has become a multicultural celebration. The psychological benefits of embracing diverse Thanksgiving traditions include:

  • Empathy development: Learning about and participating in various traditions can foster empathy and cultural understanding. This, in turn, promotes a more inclusive and accepting society.
  • Reduced prejudice: When we engage with and appreciate the customs of others, it breaks down stereotypes and prejudices. This process facilitates a broader sense of community and social harmony.

The Psychological Significance of Family Traditions

Thanksgiving often centers on family traditions, which play a crucial role in our lives. Understanding the psychology of these traditions can help us appreciate their importance:

  • Psychological continuity: Family traditions provide a sense of stability and psychological continuity. They reinforce our identity and foster a sense of belonging and well-being.
  • Emotional connections: Sharing traditions with loved ones strengthens emotional bonds, creating a nurturing and secure environment that positively impacts our psychological health.

The Power of Gratitude and Mindfulness

Thanksgiving inherently promotes the practice of gratitude and mindfulness, which are closely linked to psychological well-being:

  • Stress reduction: Expressing gratitude and being mindful can lower stress levels and improve overall mental health. These practices help us focus on the positive aspects of our lives.
  • Improved relationships: The act of expressing gratitude fosters appreciation and strengthens interpersonal relationships. It enhances empathy, reduces conflicts, and contributes to psychological resilience.

Navigating Change and Challenges

Thanksgiving can be a time of both joy and challenge, especially for those coping with changes or difficulties. Understanding the psychological aspect of these challenges is essential:

  • Acknowledging feelings: Recognizing and validating your emotions during the holiday season is crucial. It's okay to feel sadness, nostalgia, or anxiety, and seeking professional help when needed can be therapeutic.
  • Adapting and finding meaning: Embracing different Thanksgiving traditions can be an opportunity to find new meaning and purpose, offering a psychological process of growth and resilience.


Embracing diverse Thanksgiving traditions is a psychologically enriching journey that extends far beyond the holiday season. It allows us to celebrate diversity, appreciate the value of family traditions, cultivate gratitude, and practice mindfulness. By understanding the psychological underpinnings of these aspects, we can make the most of this memorable holiday, strengthen our connections with others, and contribute to a more inclusive and harmonious society. This Thanksgiving, let's celebrate the beautiful mosaic of traditions that make up our world and, in doing so, enhance our psychological well-being and our relationships with one another.

End Note 

In the delicate landscape of conflict, let our words echo with compassion. May our narratives seek understanding, bridge divides, and embrace the shared humanity that transcends the turmoil. In the face of challenges, may compassion guide our pens toward stories that inspire empathy, foster unity, and pave the way for healing and resolution.



  • “Gather" (2020): This documentary highlights Native American food sovereignty movements and the revival of indigenous culinary traditions. It offers a unique perspective on the intersection of food, culture, and decolonization.

  • "Reel Injun" (2009): While not specifically focused on Thanksgiving, this documentary provides an insightful examination of Hollywood's portrayal of Native Americans, shedding light on stereotypes and their impact. It contributes to a broader understanding of how indigenous peoples are represented in media.

  • "In the Light of Reverence" (2001): This documentary explores the struggles of Native American communities to protect their sacred lands. While not directly related to Thanksgiving, it delves into issues of cultural preservation, land rights, and the impact of colonization.

  • "Unseen Tears: The Impact of Native American Residential Boarding Schools in Western New York" (2005): While specific to the experiences of Native American boarding schools, this documentary delves into the broader theme of cultural resilience and the impact of colonial policies on indigenous communities.



Adamczyk, A. (2002). On Thanksgiving and collective memory: constructing the American tradition. Journal of Historical Sociology, 15(3), 343-365

Alderman, E. (2015). The Invention of Thanksgiving: Massacres, myths, and the making of the great November holiday. Smithsonian Magazine, 46(8), 62-69.

Cross, S. N., & Gilly, M. C. (2017). The impact of diversity on institutional longevity. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 34(1), 231-251.

Lamonica, B. (2017). Celebrating diversity through a Multicultural Thanksgiving.