Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in the United States, Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Liberia, and unofficially in countries like Brazil and the Philippines. It is also observed in the Dutch town of Leiden and the Australian territory of Norfolk Island.
The fourth Thursday of November is Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday in the United States which honors the early settlers and Native Americans who came together to share a harvest feast. Thanksgiving traditions and foods have evolved over the years, along with our understanding of its history.
Selecting A Date
In the 19th century, the modern Thanksgiving holiday started to take shape. In 1846, Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of a magazine called Godey’s Lady’s Book, campaigned for an annual national thanksgiving holiday. But it wasn’t until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared two national Thanksgivings; one in August to commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War, and the other in November to give thanks for “general blessings.” President Lincoln’s 1863 Proclamation set that Thanksgiving would be regularly commemorated each year on the last Thursday of November.
To end the confusion, Congress decided to set a fixed-date for the holiday. On October 6, 1941, the House passed a joint resolution declaring the last Thursday in November to be the legal day. The Senate changed the resolution to establish the holiday as the fourth Thursday, as this would accommodate years in which November has five Thursdays. The House agreed to the amendment, and President Roosevelt signed the resolution on December 26, 1941, therefore establishing the fourth Thursday in November as the Federal Thanksgiving Day holiday.
- Travel – It is true … most people travel somewhere over the holiday weekend. Whether to spend time with family, go to friends, out to a meal … it’s now become one of the busiest travel days of the year.
- Turkey Pardon – Every year on Thanksgiving the president of the United States receives a gift of two live turkeys. At a ceremony held at the White House, the president “pardons” the turkeys so they can go live a life on a farm.
- What to Eat – The traditional Thanksgiving meal includes turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and cornbread, not to mention all the wonderful desserts. Pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie…to name a few.
- Watching TV – A tradition in many households is to tune in every year to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (held in 1924) or the NFL football game, especially in the weeks leading up to the holiday season.