On the fourth Thursday of November, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, a national holiday honoring the early settlers and their harvest feast. Canadians celebrate it on the second Monday in October.
There are some versions as which is the real first Thanksgiving date. The east coast of the United States had already been inhabited by many Native American tribes for over 12,000 years, and it had been visited by other European settlers who may have held feasts to give thanks to God. But there are two dates widely recognized as being the first holidays: one of them refers back to a feast that lasted three days to celebrate the bountiful harvest of 1621. And the other one refers to the first religiousThanksgiving Day which was recorded in 1623. Then, The Settlers, a group of English Protestants who had arrived to the east coast of the United States two years before in the Mayflower, gave thanks to God for rain after a two-month drought with a big feast.
The modern Thanksgiving holiday started in 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared a feast in November to give thanks for "general blessings." Thanksgiving was proclaimed by every president after Lincoln and, in 1941, it was finally sanctioned by Congress as a legal holiday, the fourth Thursday in November.
One of the best things about modern Thanksgiving is spending time with family. Many people live far from family members and travel long distances by car, train, or plane to be with their loved ones. Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year!
Traditional foods are a large part of Thanksgiving celebrations. Many families include the entire family in the food preparation. Traditional foods include turkey, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, cornbread, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. Many people serve pie for dessert at the end of the meal. Popular pie flavors are pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato, and apple.
Some families include breaking the turkey's wishbone as part of their celebration. The wishbone is found attached to the breast meat in the turkey's chest. After the meat has been removed and the wishbone has had a chance to become dry and brittle, two people each take one end of the bone, make a wish, and pull. Whoever ends up with the larger part of the bone gets his or her wish!
Each year at Thanksgiving, the President of the United States receives a gift of a live turkey (along with an alternate in case something happens to the official turkey). At a White House ceremony, the president traditionally "pardons" the National Thanksgiving Turkey and the alternate turkeys, allowing them to live out the rest of their lives on a farm.
Many generous folks use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to help the less fortunate. Some people volunteer to serve food at homeless shelters on Thanksgiving Day and others donate to shelters or participate in canned food drives.
Television also plays a part in Thanksgiving celebrations. Many families watch the New York City Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade includes marching bands, floats, songs and performances from Broadway musicals, and giant helium-filled balloons!
Two classic films settled in Thanksgiving are Hannah and Her Sisters and Home For The Holidays.