A Day of Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Traditions

A Day of Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Traditions

Posted by Krysia on Nov 19th 2017

Thanksgiving, dubbed as the precursor holiday to Christmas, is a US holiday that falls every fourth of November. This year, Thanksgiving falls on the 23rd. Government offices, businesses, schools, and nearly everyone get a 4-day weekend to enjoy a hearty meal with your family and friends.

A Short History

1621 marked one of the first acknowledged Thanksgiving celebrations in the American colonies. It was a shared autumn harvest feast between the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians. For more than two centuries after that, it was celebrated individually by colonies and states until 1863; when in the midst of the Civil War, Pres. Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving to be held each November.

Another feast acknowledged as a Thanksgiving celebration was recorded in 1621 at Plymouth. After the Pilgrims’ successful first corn harvest, the then Governor William Bradford organized a 3-day celebratory feast. He also invited a group of Native American allies, including Wampanoag chief Massasoit. This will be the event more popularly remembered as American’s first Thanksgiving.

As for the “turkey” that is ever present in Thanksgiving feasts, it was believed to have originated from the “fowling” mission Mayor Bradford sent 4 of his men in preparation for the celebration. Historian believed that the dishes were prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking techniques. Cakes and pies were only added along the years as technology developed.

The Official Thanksgiving Holiday

Thanksgiving was not celebrated as an official holiday until the Pilgrims’ second Thanksgiving celebration in 1623, marking the end of a long drought in the area. Days of fasting and thanksgiving were observed in other New England settlements and in 1789, George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation during the American Revolution.

The proclamation called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion of the American war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution.

In 1941, Thanksgiving was officially signed to be celebrated every fourth Thursday of November by Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Common Thanksgiving Traditions
(from thanksgiving.com)

  • Charity: Many communities create food drives that collect non-perishable packaged and canned foods for the less fortunate or find other ways to serve others. Here are 10 ways to give back with your family this year.

  • Prayer: Places of worship offer special Thanksgiving Day services. Here are 6 Blessings and prayers for you to worship with friends and family at home.
  • Thankfulness: Many families take turns sharing what they are most thankful for during their Thanksgiving meal. But we challenge everyone to keep Thanksgiving gratitude alive all year.
  • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: In 1924, the Macy’s department store held its first Thanksgiving parade in New York City—a tradition that continues today and is known as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. During the parade, larger than life balloons depicting famous characters, elaborate floats themed around history and pop culture, along with popular entertainers such as The Rockettes of Radio City Music Hall, high school and college marching bands, and musical performers travel down Central Park West from 77th Street to Columbus Circle along Central Park South to 6th Avenue, down 6th Avenue to 34th Street and along 34th Street to Macy’s Herald Square (34th Street). The Macy’s Day Parade has been televised nationally on NBC since 1952. Here are more fun facts about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.


  • Kids Crafts: Both at home and at school, children nationwide create a variety of festive crafts to commemorate the Thanksgiving holiday. From turkeys made by tracing their little hands, to Pilgrim hats and feathered Indian headdresses, creativity runs wild. Check out these creative kid-friendly Thanksgiving crafts.

  • Football: For many, turkey and football go hand in hand, and Americans spend much of Thanksgiving Day watching and/or playing football. Dating back to the first intercollegiate football championship held on Thanksgiving Day in 1876, according to The Pro Football Hall of Fame, football games on Thanksgiving was once a tradition among colleges and high schools, but expanded once the NFL started scheduling games during the holiday. The first two Thanksgiving Day football games are hosted by the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys; and a third game with rotating host teams has been played every year since 2006.
  • Making a Wish: The wishbone (or furcular bone) is often taken out of the turkey after the roasted poultry has been sliced, and tugged on by family members in effort to crack it in half. According to the tale of the wishbone, whoever breaks off the bigger piece of the wishbone will get one special wish granted. This tradition dates back to the Etruscans of 322 B.C., who believed that birds were sacred. The Romans brought the tradition with them when they conquered England and the English colonists carried the tradition on to America

  • Holiday Shopping: Recognized as the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, takes place the day after Thanksgiving. Newspapers are filled with ads and special offers from retailers notifying consumers on Thanksgiving Day of the drastic markdowns on popular products in an effort to get as much early holiday sales as possible.