Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States of America to celebrate the Autumn Harvest where families come together and spend quality time over delicious food. The United States celebrates this day on the fourth Thursday in the month of November every year while the same is celebrated on the second Monday of October every year in Canada to mark the end of harvest season. Thanksgiving 2018 will be celebrated on 22 November in the US & 8 October in Canada.

The tradition of Thanksgiving began in 1621 when the travellers from England invited the Native Americans to celebrate a three-day fest to be thankful for their first harvest, faith and healthy lives. In 1789, the US saw its first Thanksgiving after a new Constitution was created following the War and President George Washington declared November 26 to be celebrated to thank God for spreading peace among the people. The dates were shuffled to and fro, but in 1941 the government finalised the day to be observed in November, on the fourth Thursday every year.

When is Thanksgiving Day celebrated in different countries?

Australia celebrates its Thanksgiving Day on the last Wednesday of November every year in Norfolk Island. This culture entered Australia via the American ships visiting the country.

Though not a public holiday; Thanksgiving is celebrated in the Netherlands on the first Wednesday of November in Protestant churches.

This festival is also celebrated in many other countries under different names and recurring dates.

The following are the dates that Thanksgiving Day has fallen and will fall in the coming years in both the US and Canada:

YearUSCanada
201723-Nov9-Oct
201822-Nov8-Oct
201928-Nov14-Oct
202026-Nov12-Oct

A Brief History of Thanksgiving Day in The US

The first Thanksgiving in Plymouth

In 1960, colonists from England left on a ship to find another place to carry on their lives and after 66 days reached Massachusetts. Their first winter was the most horrible as many of them either fell sick or died while staying on board.

In March 1961, the few crew members who were alive got off the ship and met the Native Americans who taught them how to grow crops and catch fish and watch out for poisonous plants and animals. One of the Native Americans who had once been a slave of the colonists helped the pilgrims come into agreement with the local tribe named Wampanoag.

After the first triumphant harvest of the pilgrims they invited the Native Americans for a feast, and that’s where the first Thanksgiving took place as Governor William Bradford who just meant to put forward a friendly hand created a culture and festival that is still celebrated today.

Thanksgiving becomes an official fest

After the American Revolution in the year 1789, President George Washington passed the very first official Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the 26th of November to praise God for the end of the long war and creation of the Constitution. New York was the first state to adopt this culture as a national holiday in 1817.

Abraham Lincoln declared the date to be the fourth Thursday of November and Franklin Roosevelt changed it the third Thursday to help the retailers during ‘The Great Depression’. The date was finalised by the Constitution in 1941 to the previous fourth Thursday.

Traditions of Thanksgiving Day

One of the main traditions of Thanksgiving Day is having a family get together where siblings and members come home from all ends of the world to be with their families.

On a broader note, there are food drives where canned and packaged good are collected from people and donated to the poor five days after Thanksgiving known as the Giving Tuesday.

Parades are also held throughout the country with the biggest and grandest ones being Macy’s Thanksgiving Day in New York City and America’s Thanksgiving parade in Detroit. The parades are attended by famous personalities and consist of a lot of balloons, decorations and marching bands.

Another tradition is the American football such as NFL games which is held on and around Thanksgiving Day. Radio stations also broadcast a monologue which is 18 minutes long called ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ by Arlo Guthrie every Thanksgiving.

A tradition in the political department is the pardoning of Turkey which began with John F Kennedy and was turned into a permanent one by George Bush in 1989. Every President sends the Turkey that is offered to him to either a zoo or a farm.

Turkey as the main ingredient of Thanksgiving Dinner

The exact history of how the turkey became the symbol of Thanksgiving dinner is unknown but what we do know is that The turkey was a wild bird who lived all over America. One of the main reasons they could have been chosen was because of their size to serve many people.

Also, Turkeys back in the days were very expensive and could not be afforded by all, but people would work very hard to put a Turkey on the dinner table on Thanksgiving.

While nowadays, Turkeys that are sold are not the wild ones but bred just for the occasion they are cheaper and can be afforded.

Food on Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving comes with a variety of food dishes that are eaten in households. Some of the popular ones are:

  • Roasted Turkey
  • Mashed Potato
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Cornbread

Some facts related to Thanksgiving Day

  1. The first Thanksgiving was a three-day fest and not just a day
  2. The first Thanksgiving did not have Turkey on the menu instead there were five deer hunted by the Native Americans themselves
  3. The first National Holiday regarding Thanksgiving was declared by George Washington in the year 1789
  4. Sarah Josepha Hale who was an American writer read the diary of one of the pilgrims and tried to recreate the feeling and aura of the very first Thanksgiving. She campaigned for almost 30 years for the day to be made a national holiday
  5. Sarah was the idea behind the food that is eaten today at every Thanksgiving as she published recipes of famous Turkey, Mashed potatoes and Pumpkin pie
  6. During the Civil War in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared the fourth Thursday of November every year be dedicated to celebrating this auspicious day
  7. In 1939, President Franklin D Roosevelt changed the day from the fourth to the third Thursday of November
  8. In 1941, the date was officially moved back to the fourth Thursday after much criticism received by the public