Thanksgiving Day is a harvest festival celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. Traditionally, it has been a time to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. While it may have been religious in origin, Thanksgiving is now primarily identified as a secular holiday. It is sometimes casually referred to as Turkey Day.
In Canada, Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the second Monday in October, which is Columbus Day in the United States. In the United States, it falls on the fourth Thursday of November. Since being fixed at the fourth Thursday in November by law in 1941, the holiday in the United States can occur on any date from November 22 to November 28. When it falls on November 22 or 23, it is not the last Thursday, but the penultimate Thursday in November. As it is a Federal holiday, all United States government offices are closed and employees are paid for that day. It is also a holiday for the New York Stock Exchange and most other financial markets and financial services companies.
The precise historical origin of the holiday is disputed. Although Americans commonly believe that the first Thanksgiving happened in 1621 at Plymouth, Massachusetts, there is strong evidence for earlier celebrations in Canada (1578) and by Spanish explorers in Florida (1565).
Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, has been an annual tradition in theUnited States since 1863, when during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26.
The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated to give thanks to God for helping the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony survive their first brutal winter in New England. The first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days, providing enough food for 53 pilgrims and 90 Native Americans. The feast consisted of fish (cod, eels, and bass) and shellfish (clams, lobster, and mussels), wild fowl (ducks, geese, swans, and turkey), venison, berries and fruit, vegetables (peas, pumpkin, beetroot and possibly, wild or cultivated onion), harvest grains (barley and wheat), and the Three Sisters: beans, dried Indian maize or corn, and squash. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “Thanksgivings” — days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.
Foods of the Season
In the United States, certain kinds of food are traditionally served at Thanksgiving meals. Firstly, baked or roasted turkey is usually the featured item on any Thanksgiving feast table (so much so that Thanksgiving is sometimes referred to as “Turkey Day”). Stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, other fall vegetables, and pumpkin pie are commonly associated with Thanksgiving dinner. All of these are actually native to the Americas or were introduced as a new food source to the Europeans when they arrived.
Vacation and travel
During Thanksgiving Day families and friends usually gather for a large meal or dinner. Consequently the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is one of the busiest travelperiods of the year. Thanksgiving is a four-day or five-day weekend vacation for schools and colleges. Most business and government workers (78% in 2007) are given Thanksgiving and the day after as paid holidays. Thanksgiving Eve, the night before Thanksgiving, is one of the busiest nights of the year for bars and clubs, as many college students and others return to their hometowns to reunite with friends and family.
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving
The day after Thanksgiving is a day off for some companies and many schools. It is popularly known as Black Friday, because of the heavy shopping that day helps retailers turn a profit or put books back into black. Black Friday has been considered by retailers to be the start of the Christmas shopping season since as early as the 1930s.
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