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24 November 2022
Famous for being a day for eating an abundance of turkey and pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving Day is held on the fourth Thursday in November. In 2021, Thanksgiving falls on November 25.
It is a federal holiday, so most schools and businesses are closed. The day after Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, is also a holiday in more than 20 states, allowing people to benefit from a long weekend. This is also known as Thanksgiving break.
History of Thanksgiving
To understand its origin and why we celebrate Thanksgiving today, it is important to understand its roots by delving into the history behind Thanksgiving. Our timeline outlines the background into the date.
Pilgrims Reach the New World in 1621
Religious separatists left Plymouth, England, bound for the New World on the Mayflower ship in September 1620. They hoped to find prosperity, a new way of life and the opportunity to practice their faith in freedom, the majority having left the Church of England. Over 3 months later, they crossed Massachusetts Bay and worked at setting up a village at Plymouth. Their first winter in Plymouth was particularly difficult. Most of the settlers lived aboard the ship, and disease and scurvy abounded. Only half of them managed to survive the winter.
They moved ashore in March. An Indian from the Abenaki tribe greeted them in English. He later returned with a native Indian, a Pawtuxet named Squanto. He had been sold into slavery but had managed to escape to London and get back to his homeland. He taught the Pilgrims, as they came to be known about 100 years later, how to live off this new land. He showed them how to cultivate corn and helped them build bonds with the local Wampanoag tribe.
A Reason for Celebration
In November of 1621, the Pilgrims gathered their first harvest of corn. Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast with guests from the Wampanoag tribe. This harvest celebration lasted 3 days. The food likely included fowl, which the Pilgrims had caught, and deer that the Wampanoag had brought with them as a gift. Their feast menu could have included fish, as well as native fruit and vegetables, such as garlic, cranberries, walnuts, and chestnuts. However, they had no potatoes and they would not have had pumpkin pie, as they had no sugar or oven. There was a formal march, and both the Pilgrims and native Indians put on a show of their weaponry abilities. As well as feasting and military exercises, there were games.
This day of thanksgiving to God, combined with harvest celebrations, came to be celebrated annually in the New England area by the late 1600s, but on various days.
Traditionally, Thanksgiving in the USA is a day when families gather together to celebrate, give thanks for what they are grateful for, and eat a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. The original Thanksgiving meal has evolved into the ubiquitous turkey and traditional sides such as mashed potatoes, yams, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, plus, of course, pumpkin pie. Happy Thanksgiving is a common expression used around the holiday and many simply refer to Thanksgiving as Turkey Day, since the Thanksgiving dinner has become such a significant ritual.
Thanksgiving isn’t just celebrated in the United States. Other countries that follow celebrations also include Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia. In Spanish, Thanksgiving Day is known as Día de Acción de Gracias, which literally translates to “day of giving thanks”.
It marks the opening of the Christmas season and shopping period. It is also a day for football games, namely the NFL, and other sporting events, both amateur and professional. Some people, wanting to give back, see the time as an occasion to volunteer at soup kitchens, food banks, etc.
Parades take place, the most famous being the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, with millions attending and watching on television. In 2021, Macy’s celebrate their 95th parade.