Thanksgiving Day: 24 November, 2016

Thanksgiving Day: Thursday 24 November, 2016


Thanksgiving Day is a federal holiday in the United States, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, the day that precedes  Black Friday

It traditionally starts the ‘holiday season’ in the United States, the Yuletide period and  for  many Americans it is as important as Christmas.

The first Thanksgiving Day was held in the city of El Paso, Texas in 1598. Another early event was celebrated in 1619 in the Virginia Colony and 1621, at the Plymouth Plantation, where the religious refugees from England (known  as the Pilgrims) invited the local Native Americans to a harvest feast after a particularly successful growing season. The previous year’s harvests had failed and in the winter of 1620 half of the pilgrims had starved to death but members of the local Wampanoag tribe had  taught them how to grow corn, beans and squash (the Three Sisters); catch fish, and collect seafood

However, their first true thanksgiving was in 1623, when they gave thanks for rain that ended a drought. These early thanksgivings took the form of a special church service, rather than a feast.

In the second half of the 1600s, thanksgivings after the harvest became more common and started to become annual events. However, they  were  celebrated on different days in different communities and in some places there was  more than one celebration each year.

George Washington, the first president of the United States, proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day on November 26, 1789. It was  ” a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God”.

In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt  changed  the national Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday, because there are sometimes five Thursdays in the month.

In modern times the President of the United States, in addition to issuing a proclamation, will pardon a turkey, sparing the bird’s life and ensuring it will spend the rest of its life free.This year,  President Obama will pardon one of two turkeys at the White House: either Tater or Tot will be allowed to live out its days at Virginia Tech. The other will unfortunately become the official national Thanksgiving turkey.

It will be up to President Trump to do the honors next year.

The turkey hasa become one of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes,  probably because in 1621 Pilgrim Edward Winslow wrote a letter about a now-famous meal, mentioning  a turkey hunt before the dinner.

When European settlers encountered turkeys for the first time in the early 1500s, they incorrectly identified the birds as a type of guineafowl, a group of birds thought to come from Turkey. This sort of ‘turkey fowl’ later became shortened to ‘turkey’ and entered the vernacular.   Yet, in  Portuguese the translation of turkey is ‘peru’., because those  exotic birds taken back to 16th century Portugal came from there.

Thanksgiving Day is traditionally a day for families and friends to get together for a special meal that  iconsissta of the above mentioned  turkey, along with stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, pumpkin pie, and vegetables.

Other Thanksgiving traditions include football (like soccer on Boxing Day in the UK) and the Macy’s parade in New York City . This parade dates back to the 1920s when many of the immigrant workers at Macy’s department store enjoyed  celebrating the American holiday with same the sort of festival as their parents in Europe.

Even though Thanksgiving Day has been an annual holiday in the United States since 1863,  not  everyone sees this day as a cause for celebration. At this time of the year another celebration,  American Indian Heritage Day,  is observed


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