LOS ANGELES (Business Wire) — While Americans may be divided on how to run the country, we are united in the importance of family and tradition at Thanksgiving. According to a new survey by researchers at Mrs. Cubbison’s Kitchen in Los Angeles, when asked “to whom or what will you be giving thanks for this year?,” the majority of Americans will be giving thanks for “family,” followed by “health,” “God,” and “friends.” This sentiment has not changed much in 223 years, since George Washington expressed these feelings when, as our country’s first president, he introduced a Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789.

The nationwide survey, which can be viewed at, uncovers the latest data on similarities and differences on how our nation celebrates Thanksgiving.

Over 80% of people surveyed said Thanksgiving is the most important non-religious holiday of the year. While most people said they spend Thanksgiving with direct and extended family members, people in the West also share the holiday with friends more than people in other parts of the country.

The Menu …Turkey and Stuffing Top The List, But Special Diets Are Growing In Importance

No matter who is at your table, turkey is still the top menu must-have, followed by stuffing at a close second. Mashed potatoes, pie and yams/sweet potatoes round out the top five favorite menu items. When it comes to leftovers, pie and stuffing come in right behind a good turkey sandwich. Although traditional fare is preferred, one in five families said they consider special diets when preparing their menu; people in the West prepare vegetarian and gluten-free choices while the South and Midwest offer items for those who are diabetic. The Northeast and South are also trending towards lactose-free and kosher menu offerings.

Stuffing is A Family Tradition

When asked which Thanksgiving dishes are handed down from previous family generations, the “stuffing” was by far the most important traditional family recipe. When it comes to stuffing ingredients, over 80% said celery and onions topped the list. People in the Northeast and West are more likely to add more “stuff” like carrots and sausage. Around 70% of people in the South and 60% of people in the Northeast said they like to cook stuffing in a casserole dish in the oven, while around 58% of people in the West and 45% of people in the Midwest said they prefer to cook it in the bird.

Stuffing or Dressing?

That depends on where you live. Southerners use the term “dressing” more than anywhere else in the country, but the majority of people seem to use the word “stuffing.”

Who Cooks and Plans for The Most Important Meal of the Year?

Over 45% of respondents said Mom is the main cook and planner for the Thanksgiving meal, especially in the Northeast. But, family members and friends play supporting roles. In the South, siblings are more likely to help with the cooking more than other parts of the country. Friends assist in the West and South, while children are often helpers in the Midwest.

Turkey Day Anxiety

More than 30% of women said their biggest Thanksgiving meal concern is that all the menu items will be done at the same time and stay warm. Men’s biggest menu concern is the turkey will be too dry (44%). Women turn to magazines and the Internet for turkey day help, while men ask their dad for cooking advice.

Shopping Habits Across the Country

The majority of survey respondents said they start shopping for Thanksgiving one to two weeks before the big day. People in the South start their shopping the earliest (3 or more weeks before) while those in the Northeast said they start one week before. People in the West are more likely to shop in natural food stores while in the Northeast they prefer neighborhood markets.

How much time is spent in the kitchen?

People in the South spend the most time with their meal preparation (2 to 3 days before) while those in the West spend a full day or less in the kitchen. Most everyone spends at least half the day in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day.

Guest Contributions?

Yes, we do get a little help from our family and friends. Guests bring vegetable side dishes and desserts and are more likely to do so in the West. However, in the Northeast, the host is more likely to prepare the entire meal.

What Do Families Do for Fun?

After watching football, American families are connecting with games and stories. Watching football was the number one activity mentioned by over 60% of people surveyed. Approximately 40% said they share family stories on Thanksgiving Day. Families in the West and Midwest like to play games together more than the rest of the country. Funny family stories are about unusual dishes served at the meal; touching stories are about memories of family relatives and friends.

Thanksgiving Confessions

The Thanksgiving meal is a tasty temptation! Over 88% of respondents said they have sneaked into the kitchen to steal a sample of the Thanksgiving fare before it hits the table.

The survey was conducted by Wilson & Associates, which interviewed a balanced and representative nation-wide sample of 400 households with adults over 18 years old that celebrate Thanksgiving, which has a statistical precision of +/- 5%.

The complete Thanksgiving Across America survey can be viewed at, the premier destination for “everything Thanksgiving,” with many quick and easy recipes, as well as complete menus, video demos, and handy hints, too.