Thanksgiving is a federal holiday celebrated every fourth Thursday in the month of November in the United States, regarded as being the beginning of the fall–winter Holiday Season along with Christmas and the New Year, in the American culture.

  1. The Origin Of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving originated as a harvest festival and has been celebrated nationally on and off during every fourth Thursday in the month of November since 1942 onwards with a proclamation by George Washington after a request by Congress.

The first documented thanksgiving services in territory currently belonging to the United States were conducted by Spaniardsand the French in the 16th century.

Thanksgiving services were routine in what became the Common Wealth of Virginia as early as 1607.

Thomas Jefferson who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809 chose not to observe this holiday and its celebration was intermittent until the presidency of Abraham Lincoln when Thanksgiving became a federal policy in 1863.

During the American civil war, Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November but Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the date was changed between 1939 and 1941 amid significant controversy.

Thanksgiving is regarded as being the beginning of the fall–winter Holiday Season along with Christmas and the New Year in the American culture and the event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621.This feast lasted three days and as accounted by attendee Edward Winslow it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims.

The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgiving” days of prayer, thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.

2. The Early proclamation of Thanksgiving

The Continental-Confederation Congress which is the legislative body that governed the United States from 1774 to 1789, issued several “national days of prayer, humiliation, and thanksgiving”, a practice that was continued by presidents Washington and Adams under the Constitution, and has manifested itself in the established American observances of Thanksgiving and the National Day of Prayer today. This proclamation was published in The Independent Gazetteer, or the Chronicle of Freedom, on the 5th of November 1782, and was first observed on November 28, 1782:  By the United States in Congress assembled, PROCLAMATION.

It was recommend that the inhabitants of the States in general, should observe and requested that the several states should interpose their authority, in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the TWENTY-EIGHTH DAY OF NOVEMBER next as a day of SOLEMN THANKSGIVING to GOD for all His mercies; and they do further recommend to all ranks to testify their gratitude to God for His goodness by a cheerful obedience to His laws and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.

3. Traditional Thanksgiving Foods

The majority of the dishes in the traditional American version of Thanksgiving dinner are made from food native to the new world, as according to tradition the Pilgrims received these foods or learnt how to grow them, from the Native Americans.

The use of the turkey in the US for Thanksgiving precedes Lincoln’s nationalization of the holiday in 1863. Alexander Hamilton proclaimed that no “Citizen of the United States of America should refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day,” and Benjamin Franklin also had high regard for the wild turkey as an American icon, but turkey was uncommon as Thanksgiving fare until after 1800. By 1857, turkey had become part of the traditional dinner in New England.

In the United States, certain kinds of food are traditionally served as Thanksgiving meals, usually roasted and stuffed Turkey is typically the featured item on most Thanksgiving feast tables so much so that Thanksgiving is also colloquially known as “Turkey Day” In fact, 45 million turkeys were consumed on Thanksgiving Day alone in 2015. With 85 percent of Americans partaking in the meal, that’s an estimated 276 million Americans dining on the festive poultry, spending an expected $1.05 billion on turkeys for Thanksgiving in 2016.

Some thanksgiving traditional foods are:

  • Mashed potatoes with gravy
  • Stuffing
  • sweet potatoes
  • cranberry sauce
  •  sweet corn
  • various fall vegetables
  • squash
  • Brussels  sprouts 
  •  Pumpkin pie
  • Green bean casserole was later introduced in 1955.

All of these are actually native to the Americas or were introduced as a new food source to the Europeans when they arrived. Turkey may be an exception. Nathaniel Philbrick suggests that the Pilgrims might already have been familiar with turkey in England, even though the bird is native to the Americas. The Spaniards had brought domesticated turkeys back from Central America in the early 17th century, and the birds soon became popular fare all over Europe, including England, where turkey (as an alternative to the traditional goose) became a “fixture at English Christmases”. The Pilgrims did not observe Christmas.

As a result of the size of Thanksgiving dinner, Americans eat more food on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year.