Are Thanksgiving traditions a relic of the past? A Google Trends investigation

Thanksgiving Day is among other things, dedicated to friends, family and (over) indulgence. 

This day includes traditions that date back to 1621, as well as ones that have changed over time. Therefore I wanted to step back from my own Thanksgiving rituals and take a look at how other Americans are spending this day.

Does everyone eat the same food? Cook their turkeys the same way? Watch the parade, or focus on football? 

Using Google Trends data, I set out to answer these questions, take a further look into what the most popular traditions are and find out just how much things have changed since 1621 (spoiler: they’ve changed a lot). 

Most Important Part of the Day: the Food

Q: What type of research were users doing before preparing their turkey for the big meal?

A: Users were most concerned with how they were going to cook their turkey and for how long.


Q: What type of turkey recipes were users searching for?

A: The easiest and the best. Users were looking for a turkey recipe that will require minimal effort and still get rave reviews from their guests. 


Q: We know people want an easy and delicious recipe for their turkey, but what kind? 

A: The majority of Americans are looking to prepare their turkey in the most traditional way: roasting. However, Southerners showed a fair amount of interest in deep-frying their turkeys. 



Q: What about adding a little extra flavor to the turkey?

A: Users were interested in putting a twist on the traditional turkey by stuffing it. 


Q: Enough with the turkey! What about the sides?

A: One word: casserole. Of all the most popular side dishes, searchers showed the most interest in casseroles, and for good reason. 


Q: And what’s for dessert?

A: Pie. Not just any old pie, pumpkin pie! Pie was the dessert with the most searches, and pumpkin pie seemed to be the fan favorite. 


What does the typical Thanksgiving Day look like other than food?

There are plenty of other traditions besides the ones relating to food. 

Q: Which activity were users more interested in on Thanksgiving Day?

A: Aside from cooking, users were most interested in parades, which could only be the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.


Q: What about football?

A: Last year, the Detroit Lions played the Chicago Bears, the Dallas Cowboys played the Philadelphia Eagles, and the San Francisco 49ers played the Seattle Seahawks on Thanksgiving Day. Searches for these teams last November spiked compared to previous years because of those games.


Q: Do restaurants and retail stores now play a role in the Thanksgiving Day tradition?

A: Yes. Users are searching for restaurants and retail stores open on Thanksgiving, as well as Thanksgiving Day sales and of course, getting a head start on Black Friday. Staying at home and eating is no longer the only way to do Thanksgiving.


So, what does the most popular Thanksgiving Day look like? 

Here’s the menu, according to Google Trends:

  1. Roasted turkey – with stuffing! 
  2. Casserole
  3. Pumpkin Pie

And here are the most popular non-food related activities:

  1. Getting extra festive by watching the parade
  2. Working up an appetite for the big meal while watching the football games
  3. Looking to forgo that home-cooked meal altogether and head out to a restaurant

Whatever your Thanksgiving tradition may be, any day with friends and family is a day well spent. 

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