Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in the United States, Canada, some of the Caribbean islands, and Liberia. It began as a day of giving thanks and sacrifice for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. Similarly named festival holidays occur in Germany and Japan.
Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States, and around the same part of the year in other places. Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated as a secular holiday as well.
History of Thanksgiving
Tradition has it that the first Thanksgiving – a celebration of good harvest – took place in 1621 when English Pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts shared a meal with their Native American neighbors. However, historian Michael Gannon argues that the first Thanksgiving celebration in North America actually took place half a century earlier, in Florida.
On 8 September 1565, he says, following a religious service, Spaniards shared a communal meal with the local native tribe.
According to the US National Archives, on 28 September 1789, the first Federal Congress passed a resolution asking that the president of the United States recommend to the nation a day of thanksgiving. A few days later, George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday 26 November 1789 as a “Day of Public Thanksgiving” – the first time Thanksgiving was celebrated under the new Constitution.
The dates of Thanksgiving celebrations varied as subsequent presidents came and went, and it wasn’t until Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Proclamation – in the midst of the Civil War – that Thanksgiving was regularly commemorated each year on the last Thursday of November.
Where is Thanksgiving celebrated?
Thanksgiving Day is celebrated primarily in Canada and the United States. Thanksgiving was traditionally a religious and cultural celebration, but today is celebrated by many people in Canada and the U.S. regardless of their beliefs or culture.
In Canada, Thanksgiving is held on the second Monday in October while in the U.S. it is held on the fourth Thursday in November. Similar holidays exist around the world in other countries and cultures, but have different names and are held on different days. The only ones likely to not enjoy a Thanksgiving feast today would be the turkeys. Ceremonies to give thanks are common in almost all religions, especially after harvests.
Other countries that celebrate Thanksgiving include: Germany – they celebrate the Harvest Thanksgiving Festival in early October; Grenada – they celebrate Thanksgiving Day on October 25th; Korea – they celebrate Korean Thanksgiving Day in late September or early October; Japan – they celebrate Labor Thanksgiving on November 23rd; Liberia – they celebrate Thanksgiving on the first Thursday of November; and Norfolk Island celebrates Thanksgiving on the last Wednesday of November.
How is Thanksgiving celebrated?
Thanksgiving is celebrated annually in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November. It celebrates the story of the Pilgrim’s meal with the Native Americans and is reserved as a day to spend with loved ones and for giving thanks.
For many, Thanksgiving is about spending time with family members and friends and being thankful for the people and things in their life. Many countries observe a variation of this celebration or have a different holiday along with the same themes.
Every year on this day, families and friends usually gather for a large meal or dinner. Consequently, the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is one of the busiest travel periods of the year.
Thanksgiving is a four-day or five-day weekend vacation for schools and colleges. Most business and government workers are given Thanksgiving and the day after as paid holidays. Thanksgiving Eve, the night before Thanksgiving, is one of the busiest nights of the year for bars and clubs as many college students and others return to their hometowns to reunite with friends and family.
The poor are often provided with food at Thanksgiving time. Most communities have annual food drives that collect non-perishable packaged and canned foods, and corporations sponsor charitable distributions of staple foods and Thanksgiving dinners.
The Salvation Army enlists volunteers to serve Thanksgiving dinners to hundreds of people in different locales in North America.
In the United States, certain kinds of food are traditionally served at Thanksgiving meals. Turkey, usually roasted and stuffed, is typically the featured item on most Thanksgiving feast tables, so much so that Thanksgiving is also colloquially known as “Turkey Day.”
Mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, various fall vegetables, squash, Brussels sprouts, and pumpkin pie are among the side dishes commonly associated with Thanksgiving dinner.
Since 1924, in New York City, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is held annually every Thanksgiving Day from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square and televised nationally by NBC.
The parade features parade floats with specific themes, performances from Broadway musicals, large balloons of cartoon characters, TV personalities, and high school marching bands. The float that traditionally ends the Macy’s Parade is the Santa Claus float, the arrival of which is an unofficial sign of the beginning of the Christmas season. It is billed as the world’s largest parade.
The oldest Thanksgiving Day parade is the Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which launched in 1920 and takes place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania