Thanksgiving Traditions in Texas

Texas has a long history of Thanksgiving proclamations: President Sam Houston proclaimed that March 2, 1942, Texas Independence Day, be a day of celebration of freedom and Thanksgiving. Governor George T. Wood proclaimed the first Thanksgiving observance in Texas for the first Thursday in December 1849. (Fun fact: Governor Wood was from Liberty County and was known as the barefoot governor since he did not wear socks.)

Texas was the first state in the south to call for a day of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was proclaimed a state holiday in 1951 to be celebrated on the last Thursday of the month. The state finally joined the union by making the fourth Thursday Thanksgiving Day in 1958 with the Friday after Thanksgiving designated a state holiday in 1981.

Texans have their own unique twist they put on the food of the day. Beer Can Turkey is exactly what it sounds like: you place a beer on a beer-can turkey stand and then place the turkey over the stand. Both then go on the grill where the magic happens. There is something about the beer that keeps the bird tender and juicy. Most use cornbread stuffing—and Southwestern style cornbread stuffing is a common side dish, delicious with chilies and red peppers. You’ll almost always find a green bean casserole topped with crispy fried onions. For dessert, you’ll probably find pumpkin pie, but pecan pie is a statewide favorite, as the pecan is the state tree of Texas and they grow abundantly.

Texans love football! Either before or after the Thanksgiving feast, the entire family will take in a game or two, the focus being the Dallas Cowboys or Houston Texans. The tradition of football on Thanksgiving started in the late 1800s and is still going strong in Texas. The odds of an NFL game playing in the background throughout the duration of the holiday, possibly even through dinner, remain very high in a Texan household.

There are activities to participate in or watch on TV across Texas. A few of them include:

HEB Holiday Parade

The HEB Holiday Parade, recognized as an annual Thanksgiving Day tradition for nearly 70 years, marks the official beginning of the holiday season of the downtown Houston area. The parade begins early on Thanksgiving morning and is free for attendees. As produced by the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, the parade showcases entertainers, floats, and the overall holiday spirit. http://www.houstontx.gov/thanksgivingparade/

The Hyundai Sun Bowl Parade

A uniquely Texan Thanksgiving Day parade is the Hyundai Sun Bowl Parade in El Paso. A prelude to the Sun Bowl, originally it began in 1936 and was held on New Year’s Day. It has remained a Thanksgiving Day tradition since the parade date was changed in 1978. It draws more than 250,000 visitors to El Paso. Activities at the parade include fun unique floats, a basketball invitational, a fantastic marching band, and more. http://www.sunbowl.org/events/parade

Chuy’s Children Giving to Children Parade

Raising money for “Operation Blue Santa,” which provides toys to needy children in the Austin area, this unique Christmas themed parade takes place for about an hour, rain or shine, and starts at the State Capitol and ends north of the bridge. The community is encouraged to bring new and unwrapped toys to donate. This family-friendly event includes huge inflatable balloons, special holiday floats, and children’s characters to delight the kids. http://www.chuysparade.com/

Ford Holiday River Parade and Lighting Ceremony

On the day after Thanksgiving, more than 150,000 people gather to witness the Holiday River Parade and Lighting Ceremony in San Antonio. Spectators will see more than 122,000 twinkling lights illuminate the Riverwalk once the mayor “pulls the switch,” as well as lighted riverboats making their way through the hour-long course. Attendees can anticipate seeing costumed float riders, live Christmas music, and free viewing areas. https://www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com/events/ford-holiday-river-parade

Fort Worth Parade of Lights

Featuring more than 100 illuminated entries with the lighting of the Fort Worth Holiday Tree, the Sundance Square Parade of Lights is held each year in downtown Fort Worth. This popular event has been a Thanksgiving weekend mainstay until being moved to the weekend prior to Thanksgiving several years ago. Visitors can see volunteers dressed as Cowboy Santas who collect toys. There is shopping and dining downtown at shops and local for the event vendors. http://www.fortworthparadeoflights.org/

Nacogdoches Nine Flags Christmas Festival

If you want to embrace Christmas festivities early, you can with the Nacogdoches Festival. At the beginning of November and throughout the month, there are events like the Polar Express Showing, Holiday in the Pines, and Wassail Fest in the historic downtown for an evening of music, food, and shopping. https://www.visitnacogdoches.org/nine-flags-christmas-festival/

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