Thanksgiving Day is a state holiday in the USA, which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. In 2018, it falls on November 22. This is one of the most popular holidays in the country.
Traditionally, on this day, Americans praised God for a rich harvest, now the holiday has lost its religious roots and turned into a family celebration.
The idea of celebrating the end of the harvest dates back to the deepest antiquity. In North America, this holiday was transformed into thanksgiving prayer for a rich harvest, accompanied by abundant treats. According to some reports, the first thanksgiving prayers of European settlers took place in 1607 in Jamestown, as well as in the colony of Maine. However, in most cases, the history of the holiday is associated with the settlers who arrived in America from England at the end of 1620. In the autumn of 1621, the governor of the colony formed by them, Plymouth, William Bradford, invited the Indians living in the neighborhood to celebrate with the settlers a three-day holiday in honor of the first harvest gathered after the hungry winter in the New World, which the colonists experienced largely thanks to the help of the natives.
It was the first Thanksgiving Day, but the colonists not only did not call it that, but they did not plan to make it a tradition either – next year there was no celebration, it was re-held only in 1623 after the settlers concerned about the drought long prayed for rain – and got it.
For a long time, the holiday was unofficial. European settlers organized the celebrations of autumn harvest at the local level. Each state itself determined the date of the celebration.
The first official Thanksgiving Day was announced in 1777 by the Continental Congress and was held on December 18, 1777.
In 1789, the first US President George Washington proclaimed the holiday a national event. The date of the “Thanksgiving and Public Prayer Day” (A day of public thanksgiving and prayer) was November 26, Thursday. However, in subsequent years, Thanksgiving continued to be carried out irregularly. It became a national holiday only in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln announced that from now on the last Thursday of November will be celebrated as Thanksgiving Day. However, already in 1865, the holiday was celebrated on the first Thursday of November – so declared the US president Andrew Johnson. In 1869, President Ulysses Grant selected the third Thursday for Thanksgiving. In the remaining years, Thanksgiving Day was celebrated on the last Thursday of November.
In 1939-1941, for the expansion of the Christmas shopping season, US President Franklin Roosevelt postponed the holiday on the penultimate Thursday of November. The transfer caused a split among the states – 16 states refused to change the tradition and continued to celebrate the holiday in the old way. After two years of confusion and complaints, on December 26, 1941, Roosevelt signed a law establishing the celebration of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November.
Over the years of existence, the holiday has developed a number of traditions that Americans carefully observe. It is customary to celebrate Thanksgiving in the house of the elders of the family in the circle of relatives. Native and friends come from all over the country to sit at a common table, set with traditional food.
An obligatory attribute of a feast is a turkey (in various versions of its preparation), sweet potatoes yam, cranberry sauce, stuffing from dried cakes with spices, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie – what historians believe was on the colonists’ tables in the distant 17th century.
A traditional holiday drink is apple cider. It is served hot and seasoned with spices.
Another tradition of the holiday is the solemn ceremony of pardoning the turkey, which is held in the White House on the eve of the holiday. In accordance with this tradition, at least one turkey should avoid being on the festive table.
The tradition of celebrating the Thanksgiving turkey, according to the most common version, was laid in 1947, when the National Federation of Turkey (National Turkey Federation) gave the first bird to US President Harry Truman for the first time. However, it was not until 1963 that President John Kennedy left alive the received bird.
The first official pardon ceremony was held by US President George HW Bush in 1989. Since then, every year, a turkey and its “understudy” (a double is chosen in case if something unexpected happens with the first bird before the ceremony) get rid of the prospect of being fried.
Another attribute of the holiday is traditional costume parades. The first such parade was held in 1924 in Detroit. The most famous parade is held annually in New York. It is organized by the largest network of department stores “Macy” (Macy’s). The main attraction of the parade is inflatable toys of huge sizes (cartoon characters, fairy tales, and TV shows) that are carried from the Central Park to the entrance to the department store (between Seventh Avenue and Broadway). Since 1952, the parade has been broadcast on television.
After Thanksgiving in all the shops of the country there is a discovery of traditional pre-Christmas sales, since the 1960s this day is also known as “Black Friday”.