As the year closes, many people in the United States, Canada and around the world pause for a day to give thanks for their blessings over the previous year. This holiday is called Thanksgiving, and is typically celebrated with family meals, football and preparation for the December gift giving holidays.
Origins of Thanksgiving in the United States
After the English Reformation, Puritans became uncomfortable with celebrating traditional Christian holidays, instead preferring to acknowledge fast days as well as days of thanksgiving. Its celebration in the New World started sometime in the mid 1600s, though historical accounts are sketchy and it wasn’t until 1789 that George Washington made it a national holiday in the United States. In 1941, President Roosevelt and congress resolved that Thanksgiving should be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of every month. Many schools and employers are closed on the Friday after Thanksgiving as well, creating a four-day weekend.
In the United States, Thanksgiving has a strong connection with food. Those who host Thanksgiving dinners typically prepare several dishes, in large quantities, for guests. Traditional Thanksgiving menus often include:
- Turkey stuffing (also known as “dressing”)
- Cranberry sauce
- Cornbread or corn muffins
- Green bean casserole
- Sweet potatoes
- Mashed potatoes and gravy
- Pumpkin pie
In addition to a large family meal, watching televised college and professional football games is often a significant part of the day’s celebrations. Canadians also enjoy football during their Thanksgiving celebrations.
Bargain hunters often celebrate Thanksgiving by getting in line at local stores before the Black Friday sales begin. Black Friday, the day after American Thanksgiving, is the start of the holiday shopping season. In recent years, many stores open at midnight, or even on Thanksgiving day, and offer significant price reductions on popular gifts.
While the Thanksgiving holiday is most closely associated with the United States and Canada, other countries do celebrate Thanksgiving holidays as well, usually in connection with a harvest festival or celebration, though a few countries celebrate a Thanksgiving that’s connected to political events or tied to American customs.