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Thanksgiving in American Samoa

Experience Thanksgiving in American Samoa, a unique blend of American traditions and Samoan culture, celebrating gratitude with family and community.

Jan 2, 24By Anwar Pervez
Thanksgiving in American Samoa

Thanksgiving in American Samoa is a distinctive celebration that blends traditional American customs with the rich cultural heritage of the Samoan islands. This essay will explore the origins of Thanksgiving, its historical context, and the unique ways in which it is observed in the unincorporated territory of American Samoa.


Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the United States celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. It originated as a harvest festival in the early 17th century when English Pilgrims and Native Americans came together to give thanks for a successful harvest and the blessings of the past year. Over time, Thanksgiving evolved into a day of feasting, gratitude, and familial togetherness.

In American Samoa, Thanksgiving is celebrated with a distinct blend of American traditions and the vibrant Polynesian culture that characterizes the territory. This essay will delve into the historical roots of Thanksgiving, its evolution, and the unique ways in which it is embraced in the tropical setting of American Samoa.

Historical Roots of Thanksgiving

The origins of Thanksgiving can be traced back to the early 17th century when a group of English Pilgrims, seeking religious freedom, arrived on the Mayflower and settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Facing a harsh winter and unfamiliar terrain, the Pilgrims were aided by Native Americans, particularly the Wampanoag tribe, who shared agricultural knowledge and helped them cultivate crops.

In the fall of 1621, after a successful harvest, the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians came together for a three-day feast to give thanks for the bountiful harvest and to celebrate their cooperation and mutual assistance. This event is often considered the precursor to the modern Thanksgiving holiday.

Thanksgiving Traditions in the United States

Over the centuries, Thanksgiving has become a cherished American holiday centered around family, gratitude, and a festive meal. Traditional Thanksgiving meals typically include a roasted turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Families gather for a feast, share stories, and express gratitude for the blessings of the year.

Parades, football games, and community events are also integral to the Thanksgiving experience in the United States. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City is a famous tradition, featuring giant balloons, floats, and performances. Additionally, many Americans participate in volunteering and charitable activities to give back to their communities during the holiday season.

Thanksgiving in American Samoa

In American Samoa, Thanksgiving is celebrated with a unique blend of American customs and Samoan traditions. The tropical setting of the islands adds a distinct flavor to the holiday, creating an atmosphere that reflects the cultural diversity of the territory.

Culinary Fusion

One of the most notable aspects of Thanksgiving in American Samoa is the fusion of traditional American Thanksgiving dishes with local Samoan flavors. While the iconic roasted turkey remains a centerpiece, it may be prepared using local spices and cooking techniques that infuse it with Samoan influences.

Samoan side dishes and desserts may also be incorporated into the Thanksgiving spread, offering a diverse and delicious array of culinary delights. Coconut-based dishes, taro, breadfruit, and tropical fruits may find their way onto the Thanksgiving table, creating a unique and flavorful feast.

Community and Familial Togetherness

Thanksgiving in American Samoa places a strong emphasis on community and familial togetherness. The Samoan culture, with its deep-rooted values of family and communal bonds, aligns seamlessly with the spirit of Thanksgiving. Families come together for large gatherings, sharing not only a meal but also stories, laughter, and expressions of gratitude.

Extended families often celebrate Thanksgiving in a communal fashion, with multiple generations and relatives joining in the festivities. The sense of community extends beyond individual households, as neighbors and friends may also come together to share the holiday.

Traditional Ceremonies and Rituals

Samoan communities in American Samoa may incorporate traditional ceremonies and rituals into their Thanksgiving celebrations. Ceremonial activities, such as ava ceremonies (a traditional Samoan drink made from the root of the kava plant), may take place to mark the occasion with cultural significance.

Thanksgiving becomes an opportunity for Samoans to express gratitude not only for the harvest but also for the bonds of family and community. Traditional dances, music, and storytelling may be woven into the celebration, creating a rich tapestry of cultural expression.

Expressions of Gratitude

Gratitude is a central theme of Thanksgiving, and in American Samoa, this sentiment is often expressed in a manner deeply rooted in Samoan cultural practices. Families may engage in fa'alavelave, a traditional Samoan practice of gift-giving and sharing resources to express appreciation and strengthen social bonds.

Expressions of gratitude go beyond the immediate family to encompass the broader community. Individuals may take the opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of others, express thanks for support and assistance, and reflect on the positive aspects of community life.

Religious Observances

Religious observances also play a significant role in Thanksgiving in American Samoa. The majority of Samoans are Christians, and Thanksgiving provides an occasion for religious services, prayers, and expressions of thanks to God for the blessings of the year. Church communities often organize special services, bringing together congregations to celebrate and give thanks.

The religious aspect of Thanksgiving aligns with the strong Christian faith in American Samoa, and the holiday becomes a time to reflect on spiritual values alongside cultural and familial ones.

Outdoor Celebrations

Given the tropical climate of American Samoa, Thanksgiving celebrations often spill outdoors, taking advantage of the beautiful natural surroundings. Picnics, barbecues, and beachside gatherings are common, providing a unique and relaxed atmosphere for the holiday.

Families and communities may organize outdoor activities, such as sports, games, or hiking, to complement the indoor feasting. The natural beauty of the islands enhances the Thanksgiving experience, offering a picturesque backdrop for the holiday festivities.

Educational Initiatives

Thanksgiving in American Samoa also presents educational opportunities to explore the historical context of the holiday. Schools may organize activities that teach students about the origins of Thanksgiving, its evolution over time, and the diverse ways it is celebrated in different cultures.

Educational initiatives may include projects, presentations, and discussions that foster cross-cultural understanding and appreciation for the varied traditions that contribute to the fabric of American Samoa.

Volunteerism and Giving Back

As in the United States, Thanksgiving in American Samoa often involves acts of volunteerism and giving back to the community. Individuals and organizations may organize initiatives to provide meals for those in need, distribute food baskets, or engage in community service projects. The spirit of giving back aligns with the communal values of the Samoan culture, emphasizing the importance of supporting and caring for one another, particularly during the holiday season.

Challenges and Opportunities

While Thanksgiving is a time of celebration and gratitude in American Samoa, it also presents challenges and opportunities for reflection. The fusion of cultures, while enriching, may sometimes pose challenges in finding a balance between American and Samoan traditions. Negotiating the complexities of cultural identity and maintaining a sense of authenticity are ongoing considerations for individuals and communities.

Opportunities arise in fostering cross-cultural understanding and appreciation for the diversity that defines American Samoa. The holiday becomes a platform for dialogue about the unique ways in which Samoans celebrate and contribute to the broader American cultural tapestry.


Thanksgiving in American Samoa is a vibrant celebration that reflects the territory's cultural diversity and communal spirit. The fusion of American and Samoan traditions creates a unique holiday experience that resonates with the values of family, gratitude, and community. From culinary delights to traditional ceremonies, Thanksgiving becomes a time for reflection, celebration, and the strengthening of cultural ties in the tropical paradise of American Samoa. As families and communities come together to express thanks, the holiday embodies the essence of gratitude, cultural pride, and the richness of shared traditions.