Thanksgiving Day is an annual national holiday celebrated in the United States and Canada.
It is a day where people celebrate the giving of thanks for the autumn harvest and other blessings of the past year.
Thanksgiving is always celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the USA, while in Canada it is celebrated on the second Monday of October.
How Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?
Traditionally, families and friends get together for Thanksgiving Day and share a special meal. The meal often includes a stuffed turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, corn cranberry sauce, gravy, vegetables and pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving Day is really a time for many people to give thanks for what they have in their life.
This is the most important family celebration in the United States. In some cities and towns, you can attend wonderful parades or festivities that mark the opening of the Christmas shopping season.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York is the most famous. It has many floats, giant balloons, and a Macy’s Santa Claus to signal the Christmas shopping season has begun. America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit is also very large and famous. Of course, there are parades in many other major U.S. cities, which is often the cause of many local traffic disruptions.
Thanksgiving, the busiest period for traveling
Be aware that during Thanksgiving Day, almost everything is closed and public transit systems usually operate on a special timetable. Thanksgiving is a federal holiday, so all levels of government, schools, public offices and also most businesses observe it. Many people have or take a four-day weekend so they can travel to visit family and friends. So it is a very busy time for traveling in the USA.
Black Friday: The day after Thanksgiving
After Thanksgiving, retail stores are open for Black Friday, which is one of the busiest shopping days of the entire year. It’s the start of the Christmas shopping season. There are huge sales and stores stay open late.
Thanksgiving: Origins and history
Giving thanks for the annual harvest is a custom that can be traced back to the dawn of our civilization.
Although it is one of the world’s oldest celebrations, giving thanks for the annual harvest is not a major event in our modern world. Nowadays, the popularity of this American holiday is rather due to it being seen as a time to give ‘thanks’ for the foundation of the nation, and not just as a celebration of the annual harvest.
Various days of Thanksgiving had been celebrated in America.
The first Thanksgiving: 1621
In the public mind, the first Thanksgiving Day occurred in 1621 when the pilgrims gave thanks for their first abundant harvest in Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. The pilgrims were early European (Dutch) settlers of the Plymouth Colony. They celebrated for three days the first harvest that they had reaped on American soil, feasting with local Indians on dried fruits, boiled pumpkin, turkey, venison and much more. This event is known as the first Thanksgiving.
In the second half of the 1600s, giving thanks after the harvest became more common. It started to become annual events, but it was celebrated on different days in different communities. In some places, more than one thanksgiving was celebrated each year.
In 1789, George Washington, the first president of the United States, proclaimed Thanksgiving to be a national holiday on Thursday, November 26 of that year (setting the last Thursday in November). But still, many states celebrated the holiday on different days, and Thomas Jefferson later opposed government proclamation of thanksgiving holiday during his entire time in office.
Thanksgiving didn’t become an official federal holiday until President Abraham Lincoln declared it one in 1863 on the last Thursday of November, which continued annually from then till now. This was done in the midst of the Civil War and was designed for thanksgiving for blessings, penitence for the nation’s sins, and prayers for the wounded soldiers and the widows and orphans of the fallen. Lincoln prayed that God would “heal the wounds of the nation and restore it.”
In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt broke the Lincoln tradition by declaring the date moved to the fourth Thursday of November, which did not always coincide with the last Thursday. This led to controversy among people that dubbed the two dates as “Republican Thanksgiving” and “Democratic Thanksgiving.” Finally, in 1941, after 2 years of confusions and complaints, a law was passed that permanently fixed Thanksgiving Day as the fourth Thursday of November.