Thanksgiving Day: history and traditions of the holiday

Thanksgiving turkey

Many traditions of Thanksgiving Day are well-known. Probably, many have heard about eating a baked turkey and giving thanks to Indians, which helped first Americans many years ago. We decided to tell more about this nice, sweet and tasty holiday and note when it will be this year.

Thanksgiving is a tradition holiday only in two countries – the USA and Canada

Still the whole world know about this holiday. Moreover, Americans have a special attitude towards it. The nation loves this holiday very much. Even actions of many Hollywood films and TV series occur on the day when it is customary to thank God and loved ones for all the good things.

By the way, Americans and Canadians celebrate this celebration at different times. So, the US citizens say “thank you” in November. It happens namely on the fourth Thursday of the last autumn month. Meanwhile the Canadians do it on the second Monday of October.

Thus, this year the United States celebrates the long-awaited holiday on November 22, and in neighboring Canada it was on October 8.


Americans adore Thanksgiving, as they associate it with very important historical events for their country

Therefore, this holiday appeared thanks to the first English immigrants who moored on November 21, 1620 on the ship “Mayflower” to the shores of a new continent, which Europeans had not explored yet. The fate of these people was unenviable. So, more than half of them (and in total there were just over 100 people) could not survive the winter that came soon after their arrival. First immigrants were not ready for such cold weather, moreover, they had practically nothing to eat.

Meanwhile, when spring came, those who managed to survive founded the Plymouth colony. It was the beginning of the settlement of North America. However, the remaining immigrants would hardly have survived for a long time without the help of the local residents. The Indians taught the Europeans to cultivate American soil and told them what they could grow in those regions. As a result, the pilgrim harvested a bountiful harvest the following fall.

In this regard, the then (and first) governor of the colonists, William Bradford, had the idea to praise God for miraculous salvation. Thus, in November 1621, newly-made Americans held a feast. They invited about 100 Indians who had saved their tribe. This was the first celebration in the history of Thanksgiving.

However, for more than 150 years, the holiday was unofficial: Americans celebrated it occasionally. It finally became a national holiday only in 1789. The fact is that it was in the XVIII century that such a state as the USA appeared. As you probably know, any young state needs its own customs and traditions. Therefore, the first government decided to make Thanksgiving Day the first national holiday and celebrated it annually on November 26. The first American leader, George Washington, signed the corresponding decree.

And in 1864, Abraham Lincoln changed the date of the celebration. He decided to celebrate such a big national holiday on the last Thursday of the last autumn month.

And everything was fine until, in 1939, the next American president Franklin Roosevelt moved up the important holiday on the penultimate Thursday of November. He did this to extend the Christmas shopping season. However, this only caused confusion and a real split in the country: 23 states began to celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the penultimate November Thursday, another 22 – at the last, and the rest – at the penultimate and the last.

Only in 1941, the US Congress finally adopted a document that enshrined the fourth November Thursday for the holiday


The US citizens decided to spend the holiday in the circle of relatives and closest friends. On this day, Americans usually gather for a family holiday dinner, which is arranged in the home of the most senior members of the family.

At the same time there are mandatory dishes on the table such as roasted turkey in cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and sweet potatoes. According to historians, the first settlers ate the same the same food at the feast with the Indians. The celebration also has its traditional drink – apple cider.

Before starting a meal, all family members, as a rule, thank God and each other for all the good things that have happened to them over the year

Another tradition of Thanksgiving Day is turkey pardoning. This ceremony is usually held on the lawn at the White House on the eve of the celebration. As usual, aside from the President of the United States, there are two turkeys. The main culprit of the celebration is the “national turkey”. There is also its understudy is the “vice turkey” (in case something happens to the first bird).

During the ceremony, the American leader traditionally reads a decree. He pardons the country’s main turkey (her deputy, as a rule, is also left alive), and then the lucky bird is sent to the zoo, where it lives until it dies naturally.

Ordinary Americans choose the “national turkey” and “vice turkey” via special vote. There are usually 30-feathered candidates

In addition, on the eve of Thanksgiving, it is customary to do good deeds. In particular, the distribution of free lunches is very popular among philanthropists: in this way, the needy get a sense of celebration. And sometimes the president himself gives out plates of food to the homeless and the poor.

Costume parades are also traditional on this November festive day. Thus, the parade organized by Macy’s in New York is particularly popular. This grand procession runs from Central Park to 34th Street (Manhattan), where the famous Macy’s is located, which has long been one of the city’s attractions.

At the same time, parade participants, among whom there are usually quite a few celebrities. They carry huge inflatable figures of characters from popular cartoons and comic book characters. Huge crowds of locals and tourists always gather to watch this terrific action.

In addition, on the fourth Thursday of the last autumn month in the United States, as a rule, a holiday football match takes place. Therefore, many American men spend some part of Thanksgiving in front of the TV, supporting their favorite team.

It is worth noting the fact that Thanksgiving Day usually opens the New Year period when Americans begin to actively prepare for Christmas and the New Year festive days. The fact is that immediately after the holiday in the USA, “Black Friday” begins and the Christmas sales start.

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Thanksgiving Day: history and traditions of the holiday