Thanksgiving in America has always been a rather strange combination of festival, food and frolic. We watch colorful parades in the morning, stuff ourselves in the afternoon and then retire to our couches to watch two teams of modern gladiators beat each other silly for the prize of a silver trophy.

Traditions have evolved since Thanksgiving became a national holiday in the 1860s, but the sentiment has remained the same. Here’s how late-19th-century Brooklyn celebrated, with massive feasts and costumed Fantastics.


Don’t ruin the turkey | Satya Murthy via Flickr

Thanksgiving is around the corner, ringing in the start of America’s holiday season. It’s a time to celebrate with your family and friends…and a time to be smart. Whether you’re celebrating with candles, Christmas trees, or cooking a huge meal, an ounce of prevention can make sure your holidays don’t go from merry to scary.


Image source: Yelp

The Queens Chronicle published a heartening piece about the Tuscany Deli, located in Lindenwood, which is just north of Howard Beach, who has been very generous to Hurricane Sandy survivors in Howard Beach and Broad Channel, aka their neighbors. During the Thanksgiving holiday, they catered 86 free meals, gave away 100 turkeys to hurricane survivors, and raised $2,000 to feed people whose homes were damaged in the storm.


Image source: NYDN

The beginning of the 2012 holiday season in the Rockaways was vastly different, thanks to Hurricane Sandy. Thanksgiving dinner for many consisted of donated meals, distributed by Governor Cuomo, the National Guard, and volunteers. According to NY1, thousands of meals were given to displaced residents throughout NYC, including the Rockaways:

Almost 4,000 donated meals went to residents and first responders in Queens, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Long Island and the Hudson Valley. Many of the items were donated by big-box stores, including Costco, ShopRite and Walmart. Each distributed box included a turkey, two cans of vegetables, one can of cranberry sauce, one can of gravy, one box of stuffing and a loaf of bread.


Image source: Wikipedia

It’s easy to forget that, well before these street numbers, apartment buildings, and train lines existed – before Queens was Queens – the area had been inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years. Scholars believe that the Queens area was not densely populated, and that Native Americans lived in small groups mostly along the bays, creeks, and ponds, where they could fish (haddock, oysters), farm (maize, squash), gather (strawberries, chestnuts) and hunt (grouse, quail).


There are two scenarios for a home-hosted Thanksgiving. In the first, you’re having people over and preparing the meal. In the second, you’re going to someone else’s place, simply bringing something along. In this second scenario, you can tote along a nice bottle of Côtes du Rhône or a sliceable baguette or a fresh pumpkin pie – and all that is lovely and satisfying – but we live in Queens, and we have some interesting and unexpected options to round out a beautiful gathering of family and friends.

Take for example Homestead Gourmet Shop, located in the main shopping district of Kew Gardens at 81-45 Lefferts Boulevard, at the corner of Cuthbert Road, (GMAP).


Image source: Patricia on Wikimedia Commons

Thanksgiving is only days away – we are pretty excited about the holiday foods that are coming up. So what are your favorites this time of year? Pumpkin pie in actual pie, cheesecake or ice cream form? Turkey and stuffing? Yams with marshmallows? Something else? We’d love to know. Leave us a comment here or via twitter at @queensnycity!