Most people know that Thanksgiving Day is a treasured American holiday, but did you know it’s been a tradition for almost four hundred years? Learn everything you ever wanted to know about this American holiday (including the reason we eat turkey!).
What day is Thanksgiving?
Thursday, November 22, 2018
Unlike other holidays, Thanksgiving Day doesn’t have a set date. It always occurs on the fourth Thursday in November. Why Thursday was chosen is largely unknown, but we do know that President Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863. It’s been celebrated on a Thursday ever since!
Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving?
As the name indicates, Thanksgiving is a day dedicated to gratitude and giving thanks. The original feast was thrown to celebrate a bountiful harvest. In subsequent celebrations, Thanksgiving was more of a religious holiday, used to give prayers and blessings for a season free of drought. Over the years, it has become a secular holiday and is used as a way to bring families together.
The first Thanksgiving took place in 1621 when the pilgrims shared a feast with the Native Americans in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The feast lasted three days and brought about a period of peace between the two groups. The original feast was fowl and venison, along with fish, vegetables, and stew. Somewhere along the way, fowl was replaced by turkey, which is the traditional centerpiece today.
After the first Thanksgiving, there were many unofficial celebrations but it wasn’t a national holiday. After the close of the civil war, President Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November as the official day of giving thanks, hoping to unify the new union. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the holiday to the fourth Thursday to avoid confusion (since some years may have five Thursdays in November).
Thanksgiving in the USA
Today, Thanksgiving Day is one of the most beloved holidays in the United States. It’s one of the most traveled weekends of the year, too, because families come from all over to join together for the meal. The traditional meal includes turkey and side dishes like mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Pie is almost always served for dessert, with apple pie, pecan pie, or pumpkin pie being the most popular choices.
In addition to eating, Americans typically watch football and participate in massive parades, like the Macy’s parade in New York City. It’s not uncommon to find giant inflatable balloons and elaborate floats at these parades! Thanksgiving Day also precedes one of the biggest shopping days of the year: Black Friday, which takes place the day after Thanksgiving.