Ask an Asian: Dispelling the myth of Asians and Thanksgiving

Let me set the record straight. Yes, Asians love Thanksgiving! Despite my sleek Asian exterior, inside beats the heart of an American patriot that loves Turkey and stuffing, tuning into pro football and watching people trample all over each other during Black Friday shopping.

Yet too often I get asked really silly questions about Asians and Thanksgiving. Allow me to take a moment to dispel any and all myths about this topic in a series that I call “Ask an Asian-American.”

Do Asians celebrate Thanksgiving?

It depends.

Asian people who are American (let it sink in) celebrate Thanksgiving. We love Thanksgiving because it’s a time when family comes together to celebrate and give thanks. Asian culture tends to be family-oriented, so it aligns with our cultural values. Plus, who doesn’t like eating a giant bird that recently had its rear stuffed with who knows what.

On the other hand, Asians who live in Asia or other parts of the world probably don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1) They are not American and 2) they never had the good fortune of meeting pilgrims and Native Americans back in 1621.

What do Asians eat for Thanksgiving?

Asian-Americans eat the same traditional Thanksgiving food as anyone else. We like turkey because it looks like a duck but bigger. We also like eating the other traditional sides too, like mashed potatoes and gravy, corn and stuffing, and seriously, who doesn’t love cranberry sauce from a can? Answer: Anarchists. Asians are definitely not anarchists.

But there’s a caveat. Asian kids who were born or grew up in America love Thanksgiving food more than Asian adults and elders—who prefer traditional Asian dishes. They were born in Asia and never acquired the full American taste palette. In my family, we always have a pot of wonton noodle soup and chow mein noodles on the dinner table.

But how can you call it Thanksgiving if you eat Asian food?

I close my eyes and pretend the pilgrims and early Native Americans enjoyed fried rice and siracha as much as I do.

So what are some things Asians are thankful for?

Asians are thankful for sooooo many things! Like women’s suffrage, the abolition of slavery, capitalism, Miley Cyrus*, free swag, democracy and the World of Warcraft.

Above all else, we’re extremely grateful to our family and friends. As I mentioned before, our culture is very family-oriented, which means we’re always helping and supporting one another. For example, I’m personally thankful to have parents who will take care of me when I’m sick—even though they terrify me with threats of coining and acupuncture.

*oops, I’m told Asians are not thankful for Miley. I stand corrected.

Are there any Asian Thanksgiving traditions?

Unlike most Americans who nap after their Thanksgiving meals, Asians will usually study for an upcoming biochemistry exam or play card games that seem to require slapping the cards down on the table as hard as possible. And then afterward, we all sing karaoke together.

Oh wow, this is all so neat! Do Asians play Turkey Bowl with their friends too?

Yes, except we’re not very good. And by we, I mean me. This year I met up with a group of friends to play flag football at a local school. It was a family-friendly game, so there were little kids and adults playing together. I was thrown a touchdown pass on third down, only to be stripped of the ball by a twelve year old kid who is less than half my age but basically just as big and strong. He was White though, so it was never a fair matchup to begin with.

Do Asians ever spend time with non-Asians on Thanksgiving?

Absolutely. In my family, it seems like every year someone is bringing home a friend who isn’t Asian. That’s the wonderful things about Thanksgiving. It’s all about spending quality time with friends and family, and then strategizing ways to beat back the crowd on Black Friday. Also, White people do amazing things with crockpots, like spiced wine.

Is there anything non-Asians should know about celebrating with Asian-American families?

Yes, don’t ask stupid questions like “Do Asians celebrate Thanksgiving?” And if you have a moment, someone please teach me how to make spiced wine!


So how does everyone else spend their Thanksgiving? And am I missing any other questions that are asked of Asians about Thanksgiving? If so, let me know in the comments below and I’ll try to answer it.


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