When you think back to the beginnings of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, many Americans are familiar with the Pilgrims’ arrival in New England. These English settlers formed a settlement in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and later celebrated a good harvest with the Wampanoag people who had helped them through the previous year’s winter when food was scarce (1). By the early 1800s, it was customary to celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November, and this was made official by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 (2). Did you know that in 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up by a week in order to help increase sales for the Christmas season? This practice didn’t last very long because in 1941, he signed a bill to officially change the date of the national holiday to the fourth Thursday in November (3). Although this holiday has history rooted in religion, it is now a secular holiday widely celebrated across the U.S.
The U.S. isn’t the only country that celebrates Thanksgiving. Other countries have their own versions of Thanksgiving or harvest celebrations occurring between October and November. In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October and many Canadians get that day off to enjoy the holiday over an extended weekend. In the Philippines, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the same day as in the U.S. and is part of a long Christmas season. Black Friday in the U.S. occurs the day after Thanksgiving and marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. However, many businesses in the Philippines start having sales for Christmas as early as September. In Japan, Labor Thanksgiving Day falls on November 23, and celebrates labor and production on top of giving each other thanks (2). These are just a number of countries that recognize the observance of Thanksgiving.
In terms of foods eaten during American Thanksgiving, the turkey has become synonymous with the holiday and is often the centerpiece of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Second to turkey, baked ham is also a popular main dish served. Common traditional sides include mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, and a pie such as pumpkin pie is usually served for dessert (4). Of course, there are many other sides and desserts that can be seen depending on regional or cultural differences. In the south, you may also see things like green bean casserole, mac and cheese, collard greens, and sweet potato pie.
What dish/side is your favorite, or which would you be most excited to try?
(Personally, I'm a big fan of stuffing and mashed potatoes!)
In addition to gathering and eating together, families can tune in to watch thanksgiving day parades. The parades usually run for about 3 hours and some notable ones include the 6abc Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day parade, which is the oldest Thanksgiving parade in the US; the America’s Thanksgiving Parade; and, arguably the best known, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City (5,6,7). In the Macy’s Parade, some familiar and crowd favorite balloons are Snoopy, Pikachu, Mickey Mouse, and Garfield. All the balloons are made by the Macy’s Parade Studio, and companies can pay each year to have their balloon featured in the lineup (8,9). If you’re interested in seeing some of the fun characters in this year’s lineup, take a look at https://www.macys.com/social/parade/lineup/
To all those celebrating, have a Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the break with your friends and family!
Written by: Natalie Ly
(1) Wikipedia contributors. Plymouth, Massachusetts. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Published November 5, 2022.
(2) Wikipedia contributors. Thanksgiving. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Published November 19, 2022.
(3) Silverman DJ. Thanksgiving Day. In: Encyclopedia Britannica. ; 2022.
(4) Wikipedia contributors. Thanksgiving dinner. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Published November 9, 2022.
(5) Wikipedia contributors. 6abc Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Published November 19, 2022.
(6) Wikipedia contributors. America’s Thanksgiving Parade. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Published January 28, 2022.
(7) Wikipedia contributors. Macy’s thanksgiving day parade. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Published November 21, 2022.
(8) Neary KS. Ultimate guide to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. HowStuffWorks. Published November 17, 2019. Accessed November 21, 2022. https://people.howstuffworks.com/culture-traditions/holidays-other/macys-thanksgiving-day-parade2.htm
(9) Conradt S. How are balloons chosen for the Macy’s thanksgiving day parade? Mental Floss. Published November 19, 2018. Accessed November 21, 2022.
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