Celebrating Thanksgiving Irish American Style

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, Irish people all over the U.S. are preparing to celebrate the national holiday. The Irish Voice spoke to members of the Irish American community about their plans for Thanksgiving, what they are grateful for and how they perceive the American holiday.

What does Thanksgiving mean to Irish people living in the United States?

"For me Thanksgiving is a lot like Christmas, family coming together, eating, drinking and being merry and thankful for the things we have. I really enjoy the day and can appreciate this holiday even though it's still relatively new to me."

Paul Byrne, who is originally from Dublin

and now lives in Orange County.

"It means an unexpected and welcome extra holiday just as the long nights are closing in, and a reminder that Christmas is just around the corner."

Robert Shortt, correspondent for Irish broadcaster RTE,

who is based in Washington, D.C.

"Thanksgiving is more like a pre-Christmas to me. Just a quiet interim holiday, but this year I'll have my sister down from Springfield, Massachusetts for a pilgrims get together. So maybe I'll see Thanksgiving more for what it actually is going forward."

Maurice Landers, president of the

Co. Limerick Association of New York.

"Thanksgiving actually did not mean that much to me till I met my husband. When I lived in New York a gang of us would get together in an apartment - whoever had the biggest one - and whoever could cook made the big dinner. "

"It was a great day for eating and drinking and relaxing with friends. When I met my husband I was introduced to military life and lonely soldiers and sailors, and my husband would bring home whomever he met with no plans.

"When I joined the Navy and ended up in boot camp over Thanksgiving and Christmas, I realized how lonely it is to be away from your family (the kind of lonely you feel getting off that plane at JFK after leaving Ireland) and on your own, relying on your shopmates, and you make the best of it."

"So when I was at NAS JAX I used to check with the ones I worked with to make sure they all had plans and if they did not they came home with me and my husband. We always made sure there was enough food for any unexpected guests. The house was full some years!"

Helen Diggs, originally from Louth,

now living in Texas.

"I moved here in August 2002 and my first Thanksgiving was the most amazing experience. I volunteered with John Jacobson, the musical director of America Sings, in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. We (800 children plus volunteers) were given a police escort right through Times Square to Herald Square where we practiced."

"There was also choreography with letters of the word 'America sings.' I was the C in America! Then the day of the parade, America Sings opened the parade with 800 children dancing in choreography in Herald Square. We then had to take the whole lot of them on the subway after the performance and meet at the Museum of Natural History where we then took our places behind Santa in the parade. We then danced through New York."

"It was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had in the U.S., dancing behind all the giant balloons. It really was breathtaking."

Caroline Duggan,

Irish dance teacher in the Bronx.

"Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. When I first arrived here, I didn't understand why it was such a big deal. I really enjoy it now though, it's a chance to get together with family and friends and relax with great food."

"Given that it is a non-religious holiday with no gift exchanges involved it's a lot less stressful than other holidays."

Mark O'Connor, from Tralee,

Co. Kerry, now living in Yonkers.

"It is a time to meet up with family and friends. It is like having two Christmas days, except this one does not have all the gift giving."

James Foley,

originally from Co. Kerry.

What is the best part of Thanksgiving?

"No presents and a few days off work."

Mary McAleer from Dublin,

now living in Yonkers.

"My favorite part of the holiday is the long weekend off. It always seems to be the one weekend when all the girls can escape for an evening and have a great night and not worry about having to be up in the morning."

Fiona Brennan, who is originally from Derry,

now living in Cortlandt Manor, upstate New York with her husband John.

"Calling home to say Happy Thanksgiving and hearing, 'Happy what? Shur we don't do that here at all girl.'"

Olwyn Triggs, private investigator from

Cork who lives in New York.

"My favorite part of the Thanksgiving holiday is my father George and my sister Siobhan's mouth-watering spread. After dinner, we all pick names out of a hat for our secret Santa Christmas gift exchange and have a bit of a sing-song, with my father being the star of the show with his guitar."

"This Thanksgiving is going to be particularly exiting because my cousins are coming to visit us from England. They have never witnessed Thanksgiving, but they are interested in viewing what this question mark of an American holiday is all about. Our day begins with Mass, proceeds with the watching of the amazing balloons of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, continues with a glorious dinner, and concludes with laughter, singing, and a bit of dancing."

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