It has been an unchallengeable American doctrine that cranberry sauce, a pink goo with overtones of sugared tomatoes, is a delectable necessity of the Thanksgiving board and that turkey is uneatable without it. There are some things in every country that you must be born to endure; and another hundred years of general satisfaction with Americans and America could not reconcile this expatriate to cranberry sauce, peanut butter, and drum majorettes.
Alistair Cooke (1908-2004, British broadcaster, journalist)
It is when we stop thinking about what we don’t have or what we lack, and become grateful for who we are, that we can gain access to true unlimited inspiration.
A lot of Thanksgiving days have been ruined by not carving the turkey in the kitchen.
Kin Hubbard (1868-1930, American humorist, journalist)
On Thanksgiving Day, all over America, families sit down to dinner at the same moment – half-time.
Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season, and represents food, family and moments of sharing and professing gratitude.
Our rural ancestors, with little blest, Patient of labour when the end was rest, Indulged the day that housed their annual grain, With feasts, and off’rings, and a thankful strain.
Thanksgiving is a time to give, a time to love, and a time to reflect on the things that matter most in life.
Thanksgiving Day is an annual national holiday in the United States and Canada celebrating the harvest and other blessings of the past year. Similarly named festival holidays occur in Germany and Japan. Americans generally believe that their Thanksgiving is modeled on a 1621 harvest feast shared by the English colonists (Pilgrims) of Plymouth and the Wampanoag people. The American holiday is particularly rich in legend and symbolism, and the traditional fare of the Thanksgiving meal typically includes turkey, bread stuffing, potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. With respect to vehicular travel, the holiday is often the busiest of the year, as family members gather with one another. Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated as a secular holiday as well.
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 Plot in 1605 and developed into Guy Fawkes Day on November 5.
Plymouth’s Thanksgiving began with a few colonists going out “fowling,” possibly for turkeys but more probably for the easier prey of geese and ducks, since they “in one day killed as much as…served the company almost a week. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “Thanksgivings,” days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought. The U.S. Continental Congress proclaimed a national Thanksgiving upon the enactment of the Constitution, for example. Yet, after 1798, the new U.S. Congress left Thanksgiving declarations to the states; some objected to the national government’s involvement in a religious observance, Southerners were slow to adopt a New England custom, and others took offense over the day’s being used to hold partisan speeches and parades. A national Thanksgiving Day seemed more like a lightning rod for controversy than a unifying force.
In the United States, the modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition is traced to a sparsely documented 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts, and also to a well recorded 1619 event in Virginia. The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest. Pilgrims and Puritans who began emigrating from England in the 1620s and 1630s carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them to New England. The 1619 arrival of 38 English settlers at Berkeley Hundred in Charles City County, Virginia, concluded with a religious celebration as dictated by the group’s charter from the London Company, which specifically required “that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned … in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”
Thanksgiving Day did not become an official holiday until Northerners dominated the federal government. While sectional tensions prevailed in the mid-19th century, the editor of the popular magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book, Sarah Josepha Hale, campaigned for a national Thanksgiving Day to promote unity. She finally won the support of President Abraham Lincoln. On October 3, 1863, during the Civil War, Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26.
The holiday was annually proclaimed by every president thereafter, and the date chosen, with few exceptions, was the last Thursday in November. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, however, attempted to extend the Christmas shopping season, which generally begins with the Thanksgiving holiday, and to boost the economy by moving the date back a week, to the third week in November. But not all states complied, and, after a joint resolution of Congress in 1941, Roosevelt issued a proclamation in 1942 designating the fourth Thursday in November (which is not always the last Thursday) as Thanksgiving Day.
As the country became more urban and family members began to live farther apart, Thanksgiving became a time to gather together. The holiday moved away from its religious roots to allow immigrants of every background to participate in a common tradition. Thanksgiving Day football games, beginning with Yale versus Princeton in 1876, enabled fans to add some rowdiness to the holiday. In the late 1800s parades of costumed revelers became common. In 1920 Gimbel’s department store in Philadelphia staged a parade of about 50 people with Santa Claus at the rear of the procession. Since 1924 the annual Macy’s parade in New York City has continued the tradition, with huge balloons since 1927. The holiday associated with Pilgrims and Native Americans has come to symbolize intercultural peace, America’s opportunity for newcomers, and the sanctity of home and family.
In Canada the origins of Thanksgiving are sometimes traced to the French settlers who came to New France in the 17th century, who celebrated their successful harvests. The French settlers in the area typically had feasts at the end of the harvest season and continued throughout the winter season, even sharing food with the indigenous peoples of the area. In 1879 Parliament established a national Thanksgiving Day on November 6; the date has varied over the years. Since 1957 Thanksgiving Day has been celebrated in Canada on the second Monday in October.
Thanksgiving is generally not celebrated in Australia. However, on the Australian external territory of Norfolk Island, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the last Wednesday of November, similar to the pre-World War II American observance on the last Thursday of the month. This means the Norfolk Island observance is the day before or six days after the United States’ observance. The holiday was brought to the island by visiting American whaling ships.
As millions in the US engage in the annual Thanksgiving day traditions of eating and shopping, it’s worth remembering that not everyone celebrates the event. Back in 2015 a group of Native Americans revealed how they feel about the holiday in a series of powerful videos. Among the words they used were “sadness”, “slaughter” and “lies”.
Asked about Columbus, people were invariably negative and dismissive. Most of the reactions were negative, with some referring to Thanksgiving as “a slaughter”, and most saying the term redskin was racist. Some of those who took part cursed or raised a finger in anger. One termed the explorer “the first terrorist in America”. “It always was weird to me to have that day off in celebration of somebody, like, we don’t have a day for Hitler, but it’s the same thing,” said one participant. Others said they were bewildered that he was even considered an important figure in history, given he “didn’t discover anything, and instead got lost”. “As indigenous people, we’ve been taught by our elders to give thanks every day,” she said. “We are a people who have survived genocide. People able to gather with our families is very important to us.”
The turkey is the symbol for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner for American families. When the Pilgrim Fathers left Europe to settle in the colonies, they landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620 and found their new home there. Persecution in the old continent had been harsh, but neither the long journey on board of the Mayflower to cross the Atlantic Ocean, nor the cold winter helped the new settlers, whose life, at the beginning was more than a struggle.
Grateful to God, in spite of everything, they decided to praise Him on the last Thursday of November, establishing the Thanksgiving festivity. In America the day is celebrated with a rich dinner where stuffed turkey is the leading dish. What do we know about this big, strutting bird? Native to Central America, turkeys were prized in both Mayan and Aztec cultures and were an important source of food. The Spanish conquistadors who arrived in Mexico, quickly realized the value of the animals and shipped them back to Europe, where they were domesticated and raised in Italy, France and England by the 1500s. The Pilgrims brought them to New England, where they were crossed with the local eastern wild turkey population.
With 25% less fat than chicken breast and 75% less fat than lean beef or pork, white turkey meat is a natural choice for the health conscious person. A 3 ounce serving of turkey breast has 120 calories, 1 gram of fat, no saturated fat and 26 grams of protein. Add the skin or choose dark meat and both the calorie and fat count increase. Turkey is a good source of vitamin B and the minerals, iron and zinc. An estimated 95% of American families eat turkey at Thanksgiving while 50% serve it for Christmas dinner. Globally Israelis eat the most turkey: more than 28 pounds per person each year.
Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving Day and the Friday before Cyber Monday in the United States. It is a busy shopping day and is a holiday in some states. Many people have a day off work or choose to take a day from their amount of yearly leave on Black Friday. Some people use this occasion also to make trips to see family members or friends who live in other areas or to go on vacation. Others use it to start shopping for the Christmas season. Shopping for Christmas presents is also popular on Black Friday. Many stores have special offers and lower their prices on some goods, such as toys. Black Friday is not a federal holiday, but is a public holiday in some states. Many people take a day of their annual leave on the day after Thanksgiving Day. Many organizations also close for the Thanksgiving weekend.