A German-American Thanksgiving

Many immigrants from different countries that arrive in America make Thanksgiving festivities to fit in with their own cultures. I think that is wonderful. We are free in this country to celebrate Thanksgiving any way that is special to each of us.


My parents were German immigrants. They had no idea what Thanksgiving was about. They had never eaten turkey. They wanted to fit in with America and therefore bought their first turkey. My mother learned how to cook the turkey and some of the traditional American trimmings and incorporated some of her traditional German dishes. I married, had children, and we all went to Oma's (grandma) house for a German-American Thanksgiving every year.

Our family moved and it was too far to go home every year for Thanksgiving so I started cooking the meal and kept most of my mother's German dishes and added some of my own trimmings. The kids grew up with my mother's red cabbage and cucumber salad and always loved it. I could never get it just like she made it but it is very close.


We then moved much further away, and I became a single mother, but the Thanksgiving traditions stayed on with me and the kids. Sometimes we would have guests over that had no other place to go for Thanksgiving. Our special meal was always a discussion at the dinner table as they tried some of the delicious fare.

The girls are married. The older one comes home for Thanksgiving when she can. My son does whatever his current girlfriend wants. I now go to my daughter's in-laws for Thanksgiving every year. They have a large extended family, something we never had. Everyone brings a dish. Every year, I am asked to bring my mother's dishes that they now also look forward to every year.

My parents have both passed. I know that Mom would be happy to know that her traditions are still kept alive. This will be an extra special Thanksgiving. My youngest daughter just had a baby girl on Nov 3rd, a sister to a 3 year old brother. In time, they will also enjoy Great Oma's German-American Thanksgiving. A tradition, I hope, that will continue to be passed down for generations to come.


I have tried to get these recipes as close as possible since nothing was measured out and the girls and I know how to make it. I learned by watching my mother and doing it myself and writing things down as I went along. I hope the readers enjoy these simple recipes.

By xintexas from San Antonio, TX

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Red cabbage with apples.
November 16, 20100 found this helpful

I'm from a similar background and we modified our Turkey dinner to fit the German taste too. We also include a red cabbage dish and it's a must at my and my sister's houses every year. Our recipe is very similar to yours but we use several apples, usually granny smith and skin one onion, leaving it whole and pierce whole cloves onto the onion. At the end of the cooking time the onion is removed. I usually make it a day ahead since the flavors seem to develop more fully by the second day. Guten Appetit!

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November 17, 20100 found this helpful

I'm glad you shared your recipe. I have never thought about putting cloves into it. I did forget to add a chopped onion in the red cabbage recipe but it doesn't really change the flavor that much. My son made it a couple for years ago for a friends- get-together-thanksgiving when he was out of town and he put cranberries in it and everyone thought it very tasty that way.

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November 18, 20100 found this helpful

What a lovely story. Thank you so very much for the sharing of it! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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Anonymous Flag
November 20, 20100 found this helpful

I was adopted by my daddy when I was eighteen months old. His father, my Papa, was from Greece and arrived here by way of Ellis Island in 1917. I loved growing up knowing how all heritages are important and that America is a melting pot made of many gifts and I learned it because of my Papa and daddy.

To learn we can all blend our traditions with one another and give thanks for the freedoms we all enjoy and yet still be able to appreciate our individual pasts and appreciate our country is so important .

Thank you so much for sharing your personal history and traditions and have a Blessed Thanksgiving Day which, after all, is what our giving thanks for our wonderful freedoms is all about!

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November 21, 20100 found this helpful

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I enjoyed reading it and I find it interesting that my mother who was from Arkansas, made similar recipes! I have never been able to perfect my mom's cucumber recipe, so I am going to try yours. Thanks again and have a blessed Thanksgiving! kwazz from IN

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November 21, 20100 found this helpful

My mother made those German dishes, and I still make them. My kids love chicken and German dumplings my mother made (not the pasta type). I still love pickled cucumbers.

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November 14, 20140 found this helpful

What a beautiful story, so many of us are children of immigrants and have similar backgrounds, we are blessed now that we can live in the greatest country in the world but let us never forget where our parents and ancestors came from and honor our heritage too.

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Anonymous Flag
November 26, 20150 found this helpful

Mom &Dad were Swedish and went through Ellis Island also.

Boy all the ethnic foods we had from Swedish meat balls to the Christmas Eve Luta Fisk and rice pudding

Mom would give me a stick of the cinnamon and to this day still enjoy the mild taste of it

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