Thanksgiving was a centuries-old tradition held by most cultures around the world. After the autumn harvest, communities held 3-day-long feasts, sharing meat, bread and beer. Today, Thanksgiving is known best as an US public holiday but is again becoming popular in the rest of the world.
The first American Thanksgiving was held between 21 September and 11 November 1621 in Massachusetts by 50 Plymouth Pilgrims and their 90 Wampanoag neighbors. After that, Thanksgiving was held fairly randomly. Thanksgiving days were proclaimed annually by the US Congress from 1777 to 1783 which, except for 1782, were all celebrated in December. George Washington declared Thanksgiving in 1789 and 1795, and John Adams in 1798 and 1799. James Madison declared Thanksgiving twice in 1815. None of these were celebrated in the autumn.
The next national Thanksgiving was declared only in April 1862, by Abraham Lincoln. In 1863, he declared Thanksgiving for 6 August, and for the last Thursday in November. He went on to declare a similar Thanksgiving observance in 1864, establishing a precedent that was followed by Andrew Johnson in 1865 and by every subsequent president.
After a few deviations of the day of celebration – Thanksgiving was held on 7 December in 1865, and 18 November in 1869 – the last Thursday in November was proclaimed as the national Thanksgiving day, but still not a officially holiday. Thanksgiving remained a custom unsanctified by law until President Roosevelt signed a bill on 26 November 1941 that established the fourth Thursday in November as the national Thanksgiving public holiday.
Canada’s Thanksgiving is held on the second Monday in October.
Long-distance travel increases by over 50% as people head to be with their families for Thanksgiving, making it one of the busiest traveling periods, surpassed only by the Christmas/New Year period. About 90% of those trips are by car, mostly on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving day. The average Thanksgiving trip is 214 miles.
Thanksgiving is not a traditional shopping day. It simply is a day for sharing with the family and to express gratitude. The shopping craze takes off on the day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday. It is one of the busiest shopping days of the year in the United States, kicking off the Christmas shopping holiday.
Traditional Thanksgiving dish
Turkey is the traditional dish for the Thanksgiving feast. In the US, about 280 million turkeys are sold for the Thanksgiving celebrations. There is no official reason or declaration for the use of turkey. They just happened to be the most plentiful meat available at the time of the first Thanksgiving in 1621, starting the tradition.
Modern tradition is to put up the Christmas tree on the day or weekend after Thanksgiving.