Thanksgiving Day is a public holiday in the United States celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. In 2019, it falls on November 28. Thanksgiving Day is one of the most popular holidays in the country.
The very idea of celebrating autumn and ending the harvest dates back to antiquity. However, the holiday of the Americans has its history from the first settlers who arrived from England to America at the end of 1620 after a two-month voyage on the ship Mayflower (“May Flower”). Passengers, a group of English pilgrims fleeing religious persecution in their homeland, embarked on such a dangerous journey in the hope of founding a colony in the New World, where they could finally find their desired freedom.
The first year in a new place was very harsh. Immigrants had to endure hunger, cold, adversity, and various diseases. After a harsh winter, during which many of the immigrants died, they learned to grow corn and other crops adapted to local conditions with the aid of Indian neighbors, to differentiate edible plants from poisonous plants, to find drinking water sources, hunting trails, and fishing grounds. In the autumn of 1621, the colonists gathered a good harvest, for which they decided to thank the Lord by arranging a festive meal. On a holiday that lasted three days, Indians were invited to help the colonists.
It was the first Thanksgiving. It is believed that this holiday came from the European tradition of celebrating Harvest Day. In subsequent years, the colonists held a celebration only with a good harvest, and then from time to time. Over time, the holiday has lost its religious significance.
In different states, the holiday was celebrated on different days and then began to coincide with military victories.
For a long time, Thanksgiving was not an official holiday in New England. The first official Thanksgiving was declared in 1777 by the Continental Congress, which established December 18, 1777, as Thanksgiving Day.
Eleven years later, in 1789, the first US President George Washington proclaimed Thanksgiving holiday a national event, and, at the request of Congress, set the date – November 26, Thursday. But Thanksgiving became an entirely national holiday in 1863, during the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln announced that henceforth the last Thursday of November would be celebrated as Thanksgiving. True, already in 1865, the holiday was celebrated on the first Thursday of November, as US President Andrew Johnson proclaimed. In 1869, President Ulysses Grant chose Thanksgiving the third Thursday. In other years, Thanksgiving was celebrated on the last Thursday of November.
In the years 1939-1941, to expand the Christmas shopping season, President Franklin Roosevelt moved the holiday to the penultimate Thursday of November. But the transfer caused a split among the states – 23 states celebrated Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November, the other 23 states – on the penultimate Thursday. The rest of the states declared both Thursdays holidays. On December 26, 1941, after two years of confusion and complaints, US President Roosevelt signed into law to Establish a permanent date for Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November, and this is how the holiday is now being celebrated.
Over the years, the holiday has got a number of traditions that Americans sacredly preserve and observe. Thanksgiving is usually celebrated in the home of the elders of the family in the family circle. Relatives and friends come to him from all over the country to sit at a common table, laden with traditional refreshments. This is certainly a turkey (in various versions of its preparation), “yams” sweet potato with whipped flower sauce, cranberry sauce, crackers with spices, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and gravy – something that, according to historians, was on the tables of the colonists in the distant XVII century.
The house is decorated with autumn attributes – bouquets of orange, gold, brown chrysanthemums, and branches with berries, which are identified with the plentiful harvest of this year.
Before you start your meal, whether in the family or among friends, it is customary to offer thanks for these gifts, including for the joy of meeting on the occasion of the holiday. If someone is left without a festive dinner, then charitable organizations will invite him. On this day, the president himself helps to feed the homeless, the poor, and the elderly, laying generous portions on plates. The head of the state should set an example of charity to the country.
Another holiday tradition is the turkey pardoning ceremony, which takes place on the eve of the holiday in the White House. At least one turkey should escape the fate of being on the festive table in keeping with this tradition.
The tradition of pardoning a turkey on Thanksgiving, according to the most common version, was established in 1947 when the National Turkey Federation first presented the bird to US President Harry Truman. Presidential turkeys, however, went to the head of the state’s festive table until 1989, and President John F. Kennedy only ended the tradition in 1963 and kept alive the bird received as a present.
The first official turkey pardon ceremony was held by George W. Bush in 1989. Since then, every year, the turkey and its “understudy” (an understudy is chosen in case something happens to the first bird before the ceremony) gets rid of the prospect of being fried and goes to some of the children’s amusement parks.
Another attribute of the holiday are parades, most of which are costumed – in clothes of the 17th century and costumes of the Indians. The most famous Thanksgiving parade is held annually in New York. It has been organized by the world’s largest Macy’s chain of department stores since the 1920s. The parade’s main attraction is inflatable toys of immense sizes (cartoon characters, fairy tales, and TV shows) that are transported from Central Park to the department store entrance (between Seventh Avenue and Broadway). The parade is broadcast on television. In the evening, fireworks are held over the East River Strait, which separates New York from Brooklyn.
There is also a tradition of writing Thanksgiving songs. One of the relatively new Thanksgiving traditions is to watch the National Football League (NFL) team match.
After Thanksgiving, traditional Christmas sales start working across America.