Written by Domenic Campagna Setaro, a Fordham University 2020 graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in International Political Economy & Romance Languages; Domenic studied Italian and studied in Milan, Italy through Fordham’s Semester Exchange Program. He is currently working at Morgan Stanley as a Virtual Engagement Associate.

Thanksgiving in its pure, American form has more ties to Italian culture than one might think.

Domenic Campagna Setaro

Thanksgiving — it is a holiday that is intrinsically American.  Coming from a family of Southern Italian immigrants, I often get asked by my friends in both the United States and Italy how Italians celebrate this American holiday.  The answer is quite simple: we italianize the festivities.  One of the beauties of being Italian in the U.S. is that we proudly allow our culture to permeate across all aspects of our lives — even if these aspects have nothing to do with Italy.  However, Thanksgiving in its pure, American form has more ties to Italian culture than one might think — you gather around the dinner table, count your blessings, eat an abundance of delicious food, and spend quality time with your loved ones.  These pillars of Thanksgiving represent core values in Italian culture, which are often centered around la tavola and la famiglia.  After all, Italians have a miniature Thanksgiving every Sunday at Nonna’s house, so this holiday, although not celebrated in Italy, is a perfect match for Italians.

The Setaro family celebrating Thanksgiving 2017 at Nonno and Nonna’s house in Watertown, Connecticut.  Nonno and Nonna emigrated from the towns of San Lupo in 1963 and Guardia Sanframondi in 1969 respectively, both located in the Southern Italian province of Benevento.

On my typical Italian-style Turkey Day, roughly 30 people get the golden ticket invitation to Nonna’s Italian-American feast.  On the table, you’ll see the typical Thanksgiving delicacies right next to our Italian cultural favorites — turkey and homemade cavatelli, pumpkin pie and tiramisù, the list goes on and on.  Of course, before we can dig in, we all join together in prayer, thanking God for once again bringing us together to celebrate our family, our friends, and our food.  As comes with any Thanksgiving, our festivities are supplemented by political banter, family photos of everyone dressed in their Sunday…well Thursday best, and the exciting discussions of what we plan to buy on Black Friday.  However, our italianized Thanksgiving is not complete without our annual foosball tournament, where we spend far more time and energy than necessary playing our cherished table game in Nonno’s basement, which serves the function of a game room, wine cellar, garage, and storage unit all at once.

The Italian Diaspora created such a unique amalgamation of Italian and American cultures in the United States, and Thanksgiving is one of the highlights of this blend.  I could not be more thankful to be Italian-American, and, although I won’t be celebrating Ringraziamento in our typical way this year, I will still be thanking God for blessing me with this wonderful family that has given me countless reasons to be grateful.

“The Italian Diaspora created such a unique amalgamation of Italian and American cultures in the United States, and Thanksgiving is one of the highlights of this blend.”

Domenic Campagna Setaro