Thanksgiving is a harvest festival and national holiday which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November every year. It has been celebrated as a national holiday on and off under different presidents of the United States. The holiday is also celebrated in Canada as well as many other countries. Although it has its roots in religious and cultural traditions, it is also celebrated as a secular holiday.

Origins of Thanksgiving

During the reign of Henry VIII, many English reforms came. Around this time, Thanksgiving religious services also gained importance and popularity in reaction to Catholic holidays. The 1536 reforms reduced the number of Catholic holidays greatly, many of which were replaced by other religious holidays like Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was celebrated to thank God for war victories and other blessings given by the Father.

The First Thanksgiving in the United States

Thanksgiving was first celebrated in North America by the English settlers known as Pilgrims. They first celebrated the festival in October 1621. The Pilgrims feasted for three days as a part of the celebrations. As accounted by Edward Winslow who attended the festival, 53 pilgrims and 90 Native Americans attended it.

English colonists were accustomed to celebrating Thanksgiving and thanking God for ending a drought or giving a war victory. In this way, Thanksgiving gradually became a proper festival in the United States of America.

Thanksgiving Day during American Civil War

Thanksgiving was not celebrated as a national holiday until the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln. During the American Civil War in 1863, Lincoln announced Thanksgiving as a Federal holiday.

At the height of Civil War and unrest in America, President Abraham Lincoln formally announced the Thanksgiving Day to encourage the Americans with these words

“in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

Thanksgiving has been officially celebrated in the United States ever since.

The Date for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of every November. The date of Thanksgiving has evolved a little during its history as the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in October. It is celebrated as a harvest festival. Over time, the date has been fixed to the fourth Thursday of November. Today, it is celebrated in many countries around the world on this day each year.

Celebrations on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving celebrations include many traditions like giving food and charity to poor people, organized Thanksgiving parades, sports matches and more. People cook traditional dishes like stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, and green bean casserole on the occasion. People also pray and thank God for all the blessings they have, mealtime prayers are said, and churches also arrange prayer services to thank God.

Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York and many other cities are held to celebrate the event. Many sports matches are played on Thanksgiving Day, a tradition that dates back to the 19th century. Families get together for Thanksgiving Day and a long weekend is enjoyed together. People travel back to their parental homes to celebrate with their families.