How to do Thanksgiving like a local: Expert travel tips

Like Thanksgiving, restaurateur Kevin Donovan originated in New England, on the US east coast. He moved to Australia to take up a role as director of Food & Beverage at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne, before he and his wife, Gail, opened Donovan's restaurant on St Kilda's beachfront in 1997. See donovans.com.au

STEP ONE

Thanksgiving is a special holiday because it's not denominational, and everybody in the US celebrates it. The first Thanksgiving took place in 1621, when Pilgrims and Native Americans celebrated at the end of the harvest. The major celebrations take place in Plymouth, Massachusetts, which is where the Pilgrims' originally arrived on the Mayflower in 1620. Set on Cape Cod, you'll find a commemorative rock called Plymouth Rock there.

STEP TWO

Falling on the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving gives Americans a four-day weekend, and being a public holiday, everything pretty much shuts down. There's a parade on Thanksgiving Day in every major city – the most famous is the Macy's Parade in New York City – and, of course, there's the football (gridiron).The Friday after Thanksgiving is the first major shopping day for Christmas, it's almost like the Boxing Day sale, and is when people start their Christmas shopping.

STEP THREE

Thanksgiving is a time when you get together with your family and gather at someone's home to roast the turkey and the vegies. A pound of turkey feeds one person, and takes 30 minutes to cook, so you've got to get it in early for a 2pm feast. The turkey is usually stuffed with chestnuts, which are in season around this time, sage and bread, or cornbread for a gluten-free option. We use pork sausages, for those sage and fennel flavours, and dress the table with gourds left on the vine; after all, it's a harvest festival.

STEP FOUR

I'm sure it's easier to get a table in a restaurant at Thanksgiving than at Christmas here in Australia, and while Thanksgiving for our family is always at home, times have certainly changed, where people just can't be bothered doing all the preparation, cooking and clean-up, so it's easier to go out. I'd suggest The Publick House, near Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, which is a recreation of a colonial village. See publickhouse.com osv.org

STEP FIVE

If I was invited to spend Thanksgiving with someone's family, I'd bring a pecan pie or pumpkin pie for dessert. If you're making it yourself, Martha Stewart would be the go-to for pecan pie recipes. It's not a very dressy affair, more smart casual, remembering that it's cold at the end of November, when the leaves have gone from the trees and New England is waiting for its first snowfall.

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