When you or someone around you mentions Thanksgiving, most of us immediately think of FOOD. I do, also. However, I thought it would be an excellent time to review all the other things that are special and specific to Thanksgiving; such as family, friends, parade celebrations, mission and church work, and football!
A Little Bit of History
One of the most important holidays in American life is Thanksgiving Day. Pilgrim and Native American peoples held the first Thanksgiving feast together on Thursday, November 16, 1621. That day was a good occasion for everyone as they shared joy and Thanksgiving by taking part in this feast.
The tradition of “giving thanks” on Thanksgiving has varied over time. Some use this date in 1621 as a basis for early Thanksgiving celebrations. On that date, it is said, many people gathered at Plymouth Colony to celebrate the time of harvest and friendship. This was well before the first official Thanksgiving.
Until the Civil War, Thanksgiving always fell on the last Thursday in November. The “Thanksgiving Day Proclamation” of 1863 provided for a national day of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November of every year. This history also meant it was not until 1863 that all Americans celebrated Thanksgiving as a national holiday. It was previously being celebrated mainly by New Englanders. This is why you will hear and read about the controversy over whether George Washington or Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a holiday to be observed nationwide.
The popularity of this national holiday increased in the mid-1800s. By 1890 it was celebrated by nearly all Americans. In 1939 and 1941, it was held on the third Thursday of November to devote an entire week to World War II.
It was thus celebrated in January one or two times before 1941 and then returned to the last Thursday of November.
In 1949, this holiday was changed to a week before Christmas. In 1966, “Congress extended Thanksgiving to the third Thursday of November and permitted local jurisdictions to move the observance from harvest time to any time at which they could hold it.”
Other Interesting Thanksgiving Facts
- For most of U.S. history, Thanksgiving has been a family holiday, typically celebrated by bringing together extended family.
- The National Park Service also proclaimed Thanksgiving as a day of national remembrance in 1971.
- Currently, Thanksgiving Day is celebrated each year on the fourth Thursday. We honor all those who came before us and remind ourselves that we owe them a debt of gratitude for their many contributions to our nation’s heritage and way of life.
- We should be thankful for our freedoms, and we should set aside time during this season to be with family and friends.
- The feast is primarily a secular holiday.
- It is not rooted in any particular religion. Still, it has become a widely observed holiday due to its history and cultural significance.
Disputed Origins of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is an annual American holiday that falls on the fourth Thursday in November. Thanksgiving is celebrated differently in other countries.
Thanksgiving is now celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States.
The origins of Thanksgiving have long been disputed among scholars. Some say that some North American indigenous groups always celebrated the fall harvest because they got their first foods of the season after winter hibernation.
In contrast, others believe it started as early as 1621 with the Pilgrim settlers who arrived on Plymouth Rock at Plymouth Colony in southern New England.
In mid-November of 1621, the Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest due to their arrival in New England. In fact, throughout most of America’s history, it has been a day to celebrate Thanksgiving for a good harvest.
During the revolutionary war, the Americans celebrated Thanksgiving for victory in battle. The federal government declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863.
Since 1863, America has continued celebrating Thanksgiving as a time to spend with family and offer thanks for the year’s blessings. Federal law no longer requires that employees be given a day off for this holiday. However, many companies choose to close because it is a cultural holiday.
Thanksgiving is Not Just a Holiday in the United States
Thanksgiving in Canada is celebrated on the second Monday in October, Columbus Day in the U.S. Being further North, their final harvest comes much earlier than the one in the U.S. Thanksgiving in Canada is a non-national holiday. Still, many employers give employees a day off. In many families, it is a regular holiday where everyone spends time together. It is not only about the food there are traditions for this holiday too. Just like the American Thanksgiving, It includes foods such as yams and cranberries and pumpkin pie.
In fact, Canada was celebrating Thanksgiving long before that famous 1621 Pilgrims and Native Americans feast at Plymouth Rock. The first Canadian Thanksgiving occurred in New Foundland during the expedition of Martin Frobisher, an English explorer. It marked their safe arrival in The New World. As time went by, Scottish, French, and German immigrants to Canada added some of their foods and traditions to the celebration.
In Mexico, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November to celebrate the Mexican Revolution, which started in 1910, and is considered a religious holiday. It is seen by the people of Mexico as a time to give thanks to God for all the blessings they have received over the past year. The turkey on these tables will most likely be in the middle of an enchilada with spicy chipotle peppers and green mole. If you are fortunate enough to spend a Thanksgiving in Mexico, be sure to join all the festivities and learn about the richest of traditions.
Traditions are Precious Memories in the Making
In the past, Thanksgiving Day was a day to harvest food for winter, but now people think of Thanksgiving Day as a family day to have a good time together. They will have a feast and give thanks for all their blessings. Therefore, Thanksgiving is observed as a national and family holiday; it’s an important festival day for many American families.
Nowadays, Thanksgiving is also a popular festival day in other countries all around the world. While adults prepare most holiday meals, some families challenge the kids to make their own Thanksgiving Day dinner. They always have fun and get new experiences in cooking and serving at the table.
Often, all the family members sit down together to enjoy a big feast. During this time, it is common for the family to tell each other what they are thankful for and how much they love each other.
Others invite their friends to join them in celebration. Today, many people prepare two or three different types of Thanksgiving foods that will be served over the holiday’s extended festivities.
The most important of all is to please your family and friends with homemade foods and good dishes on Thanksgiving Day. A great experience and tradition is to use that holiday time as a teaching session for the youngsters in the family.
This practice becomes a traditional way to pass on those generational recipes from the Great Grandmas and Aunts that everyone always praises. The tips and advice on how to cook Thanksgiving meals would be helpful for everyone who wants to cook it on that day; no matter whether in the present or future times.
Traditionally, Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving. The tradition of turkey consumption dates back to the 18th century, when southern planters ate wild turkeys for special occasions. Later, Americans living near or in western areas would prepare huge meals with turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving. The tradition was brought west by settlers who would consume wild turkeys for special events.
President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863 to be held annually on the last Thursday in November. Today, Americans consume approximately 45 million turkeys every Thanksgiving. This number has declined recently because of the popularity of other types of meats being accepted as the main course. Thanksgiving foods such as pumpkin pie, bourbon bread pudding, sweet potato casserole, and pecan pie have remained as constant favorites.
The most common Thanksgiving foods are turkey and stuffing (sometimes called dressing), mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, green beans or peas with pearl onions, niblet corn, and sweet potatoes. Other favorite foods include: yams (sometimes called sweet potatoes), broccoli and cauliflower tossed in butter garlic sauce, great northern beans in a light tomato sauce with olive oil or bacon grease for flavor, roasted root vegetables such as carrots or turnips cut into hearty wedges. And don’t forget the giblet gravy! Lots of gravy!!
The following desserts are most often served with Thanksgiving dinner:
- pumpkin pie with lots of whipped cream
- apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream
- pecan pie (it needs nothing on top)
- jello molds
- and of course, lots of egg nog (spiked or not)
Activities Besides Eating
Some people take part in Thanksgiving Day Parades.
Those who don’t participate look forward to viewing them on TV. The most widely advertised and watched one in The United States is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade held in New York City.
Since 1934, the Thanksgiving celebration has included this annual parade. The parade features elaborate floats with celebrity guests, balloons of well-known characters, giant balloons of cartoon characters dressed up in holiday attire, and high school marching bands. The parade also features showgirls from the Radio City Music Hall Dance Company. The parade attracts around 2 million+ spectators every year.
Once the parades are over, then it’s on to football!
While the morning hours are filled with parades and news channel presentations, the afternoon and early evening hours are consumed with football games. Some change every year, and some maintain a tradition of a team presentation annually on this date.
The Detroit Lions have traditionally hosted a Thanksgiving Day game every year since 1934. The tradition dates back to when the team was known as the Portsmouth Spartans. They played at Detroit’s University of Detroit Stadium on Thanksgiving in 1934. Since 2002, the Lions have played an annual Thanksgiving game at Ford Field when they play against an AFC opponent in addition to their annual meeting with the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving Day.
However, since 2011, the Lions have played a home game against an NFC opponent on Thanksgiving Day. So, this team is credited with starting the Thanksgiving football tradition that has grown over the years.
Feeding the Less Fortunate
A tradition of providing free meals to families and individuals who need extra help on Thanksgiving has continued in most American communities for many years. The Salvation Army seems to be the widest known participant in this tradition of providing Thanksgiving meals to the needy.
This tradition started in 1882 in Philadelphia, when the Army served 125 dinners to poor and hungry people who would have otherwise gone without a meal on Thanksgiving. The effort has increased exponentially over the years. There are many local organizations and private restaurants nationwide that join in this tradition also.
Getting Ready to Move on to Christmas
On Thanksgiving Day itself, some U.S.-based television stations often broadcast special national broadcasts; these Christmas-themed programs are often rebroadcast during December (e.g., “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is broadcast on ABC each year during December) and are considered by viewers to be “must watch” programs. For many years, NBC aired a special, “The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” broadcast annually on the holiday. It does seem a good day to begin encouraging the Christmas feeling of excitement; after all, Black Friday is the next day. Lots of people participate in this hectic shopping day looking for bargain sales. As for me, I just eat more leftovers and watch Christmas programs on TV.
And Then There’s Leftovers
And, back to FOOD! At some point during the day, most families will also have ‘Thanksgiving Leftovers,’ which can either be Thanksgiving dinner itself or any of the surrounding dishes. Thanksgiving Leftovers are typically consumed the next day also.
Of course, they taste better then; at least, that is the rumor told.
Nothing tastes better on a cold winter night than leftover turkey slices piled high on toasted bread, topped with melted cheese and you have yourself a delicious Turkey Melt.
Turkey Chowder is another leftover favorite. Add lots of veggies and broth and bake a pan of cornbread to go with it. Yum!
Turkey Club Sandwich with sliced turkey breast and ham slices and different cheeses. Oh, my goodness! I could go on and on, but I think I will let you use your imagination to use those delicious leftovers.
Check out our suggested Thanksgiving recipes on our site.