Now Reading
Home for Holidays: Indian Americans Gather With Family and Friends to Celebrate Thanksgiving

Home for Holidays: Indian Americans Gather With Family and Friends to Celebrate Thanksgiving

  • Desis of different persuations got together with family and friends for Thanksgiving, blending Indian sensibilities with traditional American flavors to celebrate a holiday that began over 400 years ago.

It was in 1621, that the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.

There’s no doubt that with time, the nature of the holiday has changed, many say, with the focus mainly on food and of course the Black Friday sales. For a majority, it’s a time to get together with family and friends and enjoy a feast, which has also seen significant changes over the years.

Kuhu Singh’s Friends and Family

Above, Kuhu Singh, extreme left, with family friends celebrating thanksgiving in Minnesota.
Top photo, the second generation eagerly awaiting for the turkey to be carved. Below, the hosts — Arora family with the matriarch. Three generations celebrating Thanksgiving. Rakhi with mother-in-law, foreground, Ram, Sundeep and Krish, background.

Immigrant families give their own twist to Thanksgiving staples. One might see a paneer dish here, or a tofu-turkey there, or some biryani to go with the main turkey preparation.

There is no doubt that Thanksgiving is one of the most important holidays as families and friends get together. Each family has its unique way of celebrating the holiday. This year was a welcome change from last year, while many shared their holiday dinners via Zoom. Several families like the like the Baichwals of Wappingers Falls, New York, were happy to resume their hosting duties after last year’s break. The Baichwals have been cooking a lavish spread for their family and friends at their home since the early 90s. What began as an “experiment” for the kids, has become a tradition, with American staples. “There were several experiments with flavors,” Sucheta Baichwal recalls, and now her Thanksgiving table is primarily American, with a butternut squash soup that’s got some ginger and cilantro. “We tried making a tandoori turkey a few years ago,” she says, “but no one liked the flavors.”

Shikha Hamilton and Family

Above top left, Avani Hamilton with her youngest cousin, Shyla. Above right, four generations celebrating Thanksgiving, from 90 years old to 18 months old. Above bottom, Shikha Hamilton with her grand niece, Shyla.
Above right, the happy family, Shivika, Aniket, and baby Shyla. Below, the Thanksgiving fare.

Like the Baichwals, the Pullappally family of Kozhikode, Kerala, who settled in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago in 1974, began celebrating the holiday in 2002, and now includes their extended families. “The celebrations include an American feast, a touch football game called ‘The Birth Order Bowl’ (older siblings vs. younger siblings) and a celebration of five birthdays that all occur within a 4-day span right around Thanksgiving,” Ligy Thomas says.

The Baichwal Family

Above, family and friends enjoy Thanksgiving at Sucheta and Anand Baichwal’s home in Wappingers Fall, N.Y. Below left, carving the turkey. Below right, kids enjoy the lavish spread.

In Michigan, Dr. Asha Shajahan hosted a family gathering where kids wrote what they are thankful for on a leaf and pasted them on a canvas that Dr. Shajahan painted.

Kuhu Singh of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, a suburb of the Twin Cities, along with her husband Rajeev, and son Puru, met family friends to mark the holiday. The Hamilton family of California had four generations celebrating Thanksgiving — from 90 years old to 18 months old.

Dr. Asha Shajahan’s Family and Friends

Family gathering hosted by Dr. Asha Shajahan in Michigan. Kids wrote what they are thankful for on a leaf and pasted them on a canvas that Dr. Shajahan painted. 

Whether the celebrations included a football or basketball game, board games, charades or music, one can’t deny that food plays a lead role in it. It’s traditional spread at some homes, some like Pradnya Haldipur of Maryland cook food that’s a nod to her multicultural family. Pre-Thanksgiving food included open-faced salmon mousse sandwiches, along with Indian chutney sandwiches as well as a Brazilian seafood stew. On Thanksgiving day the family feasted on turkey, with fixings et al.

See Also

Sitara Ahmed had a multicultural Thanksgiving as well, with her Peruvian, Cuban and Puerto Rican friends, hosted by Maria Salomen, a Peruvian, and her Cuband boyfriend Jorge. “Their friend Ray made a Puerto Rican fish soup with rice olives and tomato,” Ahmed says “Jorge cooked the rice, Maria’s sister Kiki made the turkey and ham, Maria made the green beans and French onions casserole, and Kiki’s daughter made the lemon Mascapone cake, She adds. “People from different race and religion got together  for some good food and friendship.”

Juli Mathew and Family

Above left, Juli A. Mathew, judge for the County Court at Law No. 3 in Fort Bend County, Texas, center, with her husband Jimmy and their daughters Alyba, Ava, Juli and Sofia. Right, Mathew’s oldest daughter Alyna. Below, Mathew’s family enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Some families skipped the turkey altogether and opted for a vegetation spread. “Who said a vegetarian thanksgiving has to be boring,” asks Sreya Sarkar, who celebrated with friends in Waltham, Massachusetts. “The appetizers were Muhammara, a Turkish dip made of walnut and red bell peppers; Kashke bademjan, a Persian eggplant dip, and potato, rosemary bread baked at home, along with a butternut squash lasagna, and mac & cheese with jalapeño, bread stuffing, brussels sprouts, sweet potato with apples and pecan and pearl couscous with olives, raisins, and plum tomato,” said Sarkar. “We ended the meal with slices of scrumptious apple and pumpkin pies.”

Sreya Sarkar’s Feast

Sreya Sarkar renjoys a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner with friends in Waltham, Mass.

Despite a smorgasbord and a multicultural or ethnic Thanksgiving table, there is no denying that Indian Americans have embraced the holiday and made it their own.

Padma Nadella’s Fare

Padma Nadella lays out her elegant Thanksgiving table. She is an IT professional who lives in Eagan, Minnesota with her husband and 15-year-old son. 

Some gave back to the community, and some like Sikhs of St. Louis, Missouri, and Charlotte, North Carolina councilwoman Dimple Ajmera participated in Thanksgiving parades with her daughter Charlotte. The American Muslim Council organized a Thanksgiving feast to feed more than 500 people in Newark, N.J., on Nov. 25. Consul General of Pakistan in New York, Ayesha Ali, and president of Essex County Commissioners, Wayne Richardson. Similarly, New Jersey Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, along with his toddler son Leo, got into the spirit of giving and distributing Thanksgiving meals and desserts at senior buildings and public housing sites.

Sitara Ahmed’s Table

Above, Sitara Ahmed’s multicultural Thanksgiving. Below, Thanksgiving at the Pullappally household includes an American feast, a touch football game called “The Birth Order Bowl,” and a celebration of five birthdays that all occur within a four-day span right around the holiday.

The Pullappally Family

Manjari Chovatia and Friends

Manjari Chovatia of Princeton, N.J., hosts a true desi Thanksgiving. A vegetarian, Chovatia caters Indian food from a local restaurant every year. “I do not make a tofu turkey,” she says, adding that when her twin boys were young, her husband would make a turkey with vegetables. 

The Sinha Family

Purva Sinha and her husband Sandeep, host a Thanksgiving dinner at their home in Fremont, Calif. “We try to do it every year with a few friends,” says Purva Sinha. 

The Ninan Family

Mathew, Emilie and Hannah Ninan of Chadds Ford, Penn. celebrate Thanksgiving 2021 with grateful hearts. Emilie Rajaratnam Ninan is co-chair of the national Finance Department at the law firm of Ballard Spahr.

Pradnya Haldipur’s Family

Pradnya Haldipur and her husband Joe Clemons of Silver Springs, Md., celebrate Thanksgiving with family. The Haldipur-Clemons household cooks food that’s a nod to their multicultural family. Haldipur is vice president of development at, leading fundraising and strategy.

 Councilwoman Dimple Ajmera Celebrates

Charlotte, North Carolina councilwoman Dimple Ajmera walks in the Thanksgiving parade with her husband Vaibhav Bajaj and their daughter Charlotte.

Sikhs of St. Louis

The nonprofit Sikhs of St. Louis, participate in the annual Thanksgiving parade.
What's Your Reaction?
In Love
Not Sure
View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

© 2020 American Kahani LLC. All rights reserved.

The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
Scroll To Top