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Thanksgiving Day (United States)

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Thanksgiving Day is a holiday in the United States which commemorates the Pilgrims' first year in America (1620-1621).

History[edit | edit source]

Prayers of thanks and special thanksgiving ceremonies are common among almost all religions after harvests and at other times. The Thanksgiving holiday's history in North America is rooted in English traditions dating from the Protestant Reformation. It also has aspects of a harvest festival, even though the harvest in New England occurs well before the late-November date on which the modern Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated.

In the English tradition, days of thanksgiving and special thanksgiving religious services became important during the English Reformation in the reign of Henry VIII and in reaction to the large number of religious holidays on the Catholic calendar. Before 1536 there were 95 Church holidays, plus 52 Sundays, when people were required to attend church and forego work and sometimes pay for expensive celebrations. The 1536 reforms reduced the number of Church holidays to 27, but some Puritans wished to completely eliminate all Church holidays, including Christmas and Easter. The holidays were to be replaced by specially called Days of Fasting or Days of Thanksgiving, in response to events that the Puritans viewed as acts of special providence. Unexpected disasters or threats of judgement from on high called for Days of Fasting. Special blessings, viewed as coming from God, called for Days of Thanksgiving. For example, Days of Fasting were called on account of drought in 1611, floods in 1613, and plagues in 1604 and 1622. Days of Thanksgiving were called following the victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588 and following the deliverance of Queen Anne in 1705. An unusual annual Day of Thanksgiving began in 1606 following the failure of the Gunpowder Plotin 1605 and developed into Guy Fawkes Day on November 5.

The Pilgrims faced many hardships during their first year in America. They survived with the help of local Native Americans, and gave thanks to god with a harvest meal in September 1621. Native Americans provided venison, wild ducks and geese, and fish.

Federal holiday[edit | edit source]

Thanksgiving became an official Federal holiday in the United States in 1863. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens".

Modern Thanksgiving dinner[edit | edit source]

Traditional Thanksgiving dinner

The modern Thanksgiving dinner is generally prepared from foods native to the North American continent: turkey, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, squash, and pecans. Two traditional Thanksgiving dishes well known to most Americans are pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce.

Modern American customs[edit | edit source]

The modern American holiday falls on the last Thursday in the month of November. Many Americans have (or take) the Friday and weekend off after Thanksgiving Day. Families gather from around the country to celebrate. Thanksgiving Day is one of the busiest days for airlines in America.

Santa Claus is traditionally the last "float" in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Americans go Christmas shopping on the Friday after the holiday. On Saturday, a community Christmas tree is usually lit with carol singing and hot chocolate, gingerbread men, and other treats made available to participants.

Special television programs are aired through the Thanksgiving weekend in the United States that include the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, college and pro football games, Christmas-themed movies such as Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street, and The Nutcracker ballet. Beginning in the mid-1950s, CBS aired the Judy Garland classic movie, The Wizard of Oz, on Thanksgiving Day.


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