Thanksgiving: When did the holiday start and why does the US celebrate it?

Thanksgiving is on 26 November this year 

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Tuesday 17 November 2020 16:14
Comments
What is Thanksgiving?

Many Americans will soon start preparing their Thanksgiving menus, one of the most anticipated holidays in the US calendar.

Apart from the food, arguably the main component of the day, the holiday is a beloved time of year when Americans come together to celebrate what they are thankful for – although this year will likely see much smaller gathering and celebrations due to coronavirus restrictions.

In America, Thanksgiving is a cultural holiday that symbolises peace, thankfulness, and the beginning of the holiday season.

What is Thanksgiving and where did it come from?

Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the United States celebrated in November.

The annual feast is in honour of the “first” Thanksgivings in America, in 1619 in Virginia, and in 1621, when colonists in Plymouth, Massachusetts, later known as the Pilgrims, shared a meal with the Wampanoag Indians, who were native to the land.

The later feast was in honour of the help the Pilgrims received from the Native Americans in cultivating crops and surviving their first harsh winter and it lasted three days.

Later, US Presidents including George Washington, John Adams and James Madison called for days of thanks throughout their presidencies.

However, it was not until 1863, during the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln declared a national Thanksgiving Day would be held each November to be celebrated by all of the country.

When is Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving takes place each year on the fourth Thursday of November.

Lemurs enjoy Thanksgiving dinner

This year, Thanksgiving falls on 26 November.

Why do Americans celebrate it and what do they do?

Although Thanksgiving may originally have had religious significance, the day has become a mostly secular holiday.

Most Americans consider the holiday a day to gather and express their thanks through food, family, and football – with multiple NFL teams playing on the holiday.

During some Thanksgiving celebrations, people write down what they are thankful for and then read aloud from the pieces of paper.

In schools, children learn about the holiday by colouring in pictures of Pilgrims and turkeys and the Mayflower, the ship the colonists arrived on.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade takes place in New York City (Getty)

The day is also celebrated with the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

The world’s largest Thanksgiving parade includes giant balloons of cartoons that float above the city sky, as well as marching bands and dancers.

Following Thanksgiving, the month-long shopping for the winter holidays begins, with Black Friday kicking off the season.

Where is it celebrated?

Thanksgiving is one of the the most important cultural holidays in America, however, Canada also has its own Thanksgiving Day, on the second Monday in October, and Liberia celebrates Thanksgiving on the first Thursday of November.

What do people eat on Thanksgiving?

In America, turkeys are an integral part of Thanksgiving Day, with most dinners including the bird.

Many Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving (Stock)

An estimated 46m turkeys are killed annually for the holiday, however, one turkey is pardoned each year by the president.

But Americans who don’t eat meat or follow a vegan lifestyle don’t have to worry about missing out, as there are numerous vegan and vegetarian Thanksgiving options.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Americans also indulge in Thanksgiving favourites such as yams topped with marshmallows, stuffing, cranberry sauce, cornbread, and pumpkin pie.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in