Thanksgiving is that wonderful yearly holiday when American families bond over food and enjoy the typical dysfunction and drama that invariably happens when people related by blood come together.
For immigrants, Thanksgiving is the day when everything is shut down except for Chinese takeout and all their non-immigrant friends are hanging out with family to eat a big bird that they had never seen before they came to these shores. Often coming from cultures where holidays are either celebrations (religious or otherwise) or days of remembrance (e.g. birth or death anniversaries of national heroes) shared with everyone around them, they’ve mostly never come across a national holiday dedicated solely to staying home with family, eating and watching TV.
Over the past few decades American Muslims have evolved their own unique Thanksgiving culture, replete with tandoori turkey, pumpkin pie, baklava, friends, open houses and Thanksgiving-hopping.
A simple fact in life is that if you don’t have family around you, you simply create your own “family” through networks of friends. They help you, take care of you, join you at moments of joy and sorrow, and come over for turkey in November. Since everyone wants to play host it means there are LOTS of invitations and as you cannot offend anyone, you accept them all. And thus is borne the tradition of Thanksgiving-hopping.
Similar to the way Eid is celebrated where families spend the day visiting elders and friends and eating dessert at every home, Thanksgiving is when you go to several homes sampling turkey and pie before you depart to your next destination.
At the end of the day you have eaten more food than you thought it was humanly possible to consume, spent time with people whom you love even though they irritate the heck out of you and you fall asleep clutching your bottle of Tums. Only to wake up early the next morning for prayers, and because at least one woman in your life wants to make it for the early-bird sales special at the mall.