The Traditions of Thanksgiving

thanksgiving turkey

Now that Halloween is behind us, it means it’s time to get ready for the holiday season. Thanksgiving is a national holiday that is mostly celebrated by Americans and Canadians in order to welcome the harvest each year and give thanks for the people we love and the things we have. We celebrate by feasting on a meal which usually consists of traditional dishes such as turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce and desserts such as pumpkin pie. While we all are aware of the traditions that come along with the holiday, not many people know about the history of Thanksgiving.

The holiday originated during a time when our country was first forming. Most historians claim that the first Thanksgiving feast on American soil is said to have taken place in 1621 at a place named Plymouth, which is now known as Massachusetts. It’s said that both pilgrims and native American Indians sat at the table and feasted in celebration of the bountiful harvest they received. These days, the holiday is customarily observed on the final Thursday in November. This date was designated the official date of Thanksgiving in the United States back in 1863 by then president Abraham Lincoln. The same year was the very first time that both southern and northern states celebrated the holiday of Thanksgiving together. In recent years, the day after Thanksgiving has in a way become its own holiday that’s anticipated by many Americans every year. This last Friday in November is now known to Americans as “black Friday”, a day to work off that large meal by walking the mall in order to get all of your Christmas shopping done.

While the first Thanksgiving took place in the United States during the harvest season of 1621, the first Canadian Thanksgiving wasn’t celebrated until April 15, 1872. The date was then changed to November 6th, but after World War I, the same week was shared by another holiday known as Armistice Day. For this reason, the Canadian parliament decided to change the date of Thanksgiving in Canada to the second Monday of October. When the American Uniform Monday Holiday Act was agreed upon by both the United States and Canada in 1957, the United States holiday of Columbus day was scheduled to be celebrated on the same day as Canada’s Thanksgiving.

There are indeed other countries throughout the world which celebrate their own Thanksgiving or a similar holiday giving thanks for a healthy harvest season. For example, Labor Thanksgiving Day is recognized as a national holiday in Japan which takes place each year on November 23rd. Drawing inspiration from the American holiday, this day of thanks focuses on the gratitude for hard work and success. Another example is the German religious holiday known as “Erntedankfest” (Harvest Festival). During this period, Germans offer their thanks for a robust harvest by throwing parades and feasting on large dinners. The celebration lasts for an entire week and traditionally begins with a kick-off parade on the Sunday following September 29th each year.

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