Thanksgiving Day (USA) 2022: History, Significance and Celebrations

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States and it is annually celebrated on every fourth Thursday of November in which means this year it falls on November 24th in the country. 

It originated as a day of thanksgiving and harvest festival, with the theme of the holiday revolving around giving thanks and the centerpiece of Thanksgiving celebrations remaining a Thanksgiving dinner. 

This is a day of reuniting with your family and loved ones, sharing a meal together and expressing thanks and gratitude to each other. Today it serves as one of the major festival in the country which serves as a nice occasion for families to come together and enjoy this day in company of each other while having a delicious feast. 

Event Thanksgiving Day
Date November 24, 2022
Day Thursday
Significance The day is dedicated to reuniting with family and loved ones, sharing a meal, and expressing thanks and gratitude to one another.
Observed by United States

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Thanksgiving Day (USA) History: 

Prior to the formal establishment of Thanksgiving in the United States, harvest festivals had been celebrated for centuries by Native Americans, with colonial services dating back to the late 16th century. The autumnal feasts celebrated the harvest of crops after a season of bountiful growth. As the story goes, it was in the early 1600s when communities of settlers in both Massachusetts and Virginia held feasts to give thanks for their survival, for the fertility of their fields, and for their faith. The most widely known early Thanksgiving is that of the Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts, who shared an autumn harvest feast with the Wampanoag Native Americans in 1621. 

It all started in in September 1620 when a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the “New World.” After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.  

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Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from a member of the Abenaki tribe who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who was kidnapped by an English sea captain to be sold into slavery but he later managed to escape and return. 

Squanto then taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which endured for more than 50 years and remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans. The Wampanoag leader Massasoit also gave food to the colonists during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient. Massasoit had hoped to establish an alliance between the Wampanoag, themselves greatly weakened by the same plague that extirpated the Patuxet, and the better-armed English in their long-running rivalry with a Narragansett tribe.  

In November 1621, after the Pilgrims first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving” although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time, the festival lasted for three days. Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in 1623 to mark the end of a long drought that had threatened the year’s harvest. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year, and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States. 

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Thanksgiving Day (USA) Significance: 

Since being fixed on the fourth Thursday in November by law in 1941, the holiday in the United States can occur on any date from November 22 to 28. When it falls on November 22 or 23, it is not the last Thursday, but the penultimate Thursday in November. Regardless, it is the Thursday preceding the last Saturday of November. Because Thanksgiving is a federal holiday, all United States government offices are closed and all employees are paid for that day. It is also a holiday for the New York Stock Exchange and most other financial markets and financial services companies. 

Thanksgiving is a time when friends and family gather to express gratitude. For some people, it’s an occasion to be with family you don’t see often. For others, it’s a time to get all their friends (Friendsgiving!) together for food and fun. Overall thus holiday offers an opportunity for the people to take a break from their busy lives and reflect on the importance if having friends and family in their lives. It encourages people to get together and celebrate a nice moment with their loved ones for the day whom we mostly doesn’t meet much these days so it gives an opportunity to meet them. 

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Thanksgiving is important because it’s a positive and secular holiday where we celebrate gratitude, something that we don’t do enough of these days. It is also a celebration of the fall harvest. Thanksgiving reflects a sense of interconnectedness among people and cultures. It is a holiday that is  perfect for gathering with loved ones and expressing gratitude for our blessings. For most people, Thanksgiving is a reminder to appreciate all the things which are joyful in their life, which includes beloved family, friends, and colleagues; as well as good lifestyle and good health. 

Thanksgiving is mainly celebrated to say thanks and recognise the sacrifices and blessings of the past year. The annual celebrations honour the first Thanksgiving feast shared between the colonists in Plymouth, Massachusetts, later known as the Pilgrims, and the Wampanoag Indians. For religious people it is also time to pray to God for blessings ahead. This day becomes even more special as it is a part of the four day long weekend as it is followed by Black Friday and then comes Saturday and Sunday. So in this way it also gives a long extended weekend as a holiday to the people to enjoy and take a break. 

There are also some criticism and controversies associated with the festival as well, like Columbus Day, Thanksgiving is observed by some as a “National Day of Mourning”, in acknowledgment of the genocide and conquest of Native Americans by colonists. Thanksgiving has long carried a distinct resonance for Native Americans, who see the holiday as an embellished story of “Pilgrims and Natives looking past their differences” to break bread amd whitewashing the history of persecution and genocide of Native Americans by European settlers. Moreover, vegetarians and vegans criticize the holiday for its celebration of violence and killing of turkeys.  

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Thanksgiving Day (USA) Celebrations: 

In many American households, the Thanksgiving celebration has lost much of its original religious significance; instead, it now centers on cooking and sharing a bountiful meal with family and friends. Turkey, a Thanksgiving staple so ubiquitous it has become all but synonymous with the holiday. Today it is almost impossible to think having a Thanksgiving feast without the inclusion of Turkey in it. 

That’s why nearly 90 percent of Americans eat the bird whether roasted, baked or deep-fried on Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation. Other traditional foods include stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Volunteering is a common Thanksgiving Day activity, and communities often hold food drives and host free dinners for the less fortunate as well.  

Some families include breaking the turkey’s wishbone as part of their annual tradition. This happens after the meal is complete and the meat from the turkey is cleared from the bone. The wishbone, which is found attached to the breast meat within the turkey’s chest, gets set aside to dry. Once it becomes brittle, two people take ahold of either side of the bone, make a wish, and pull. Whoever breaks off the longer side gets their wish! 

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Parades have also become an integral part of the holiday in cities and towns across the United States. Presented by Macy’s department store since 1924, New York City’s Thanksgiving Day parade is the largest and most famous, attracting some 2 to 3 million spectators along its 2.5-mile route and drawing an enormous television audience. It typically features marching bands, performers, elaborate floats conveying various celebrities and giant balloons shaped like cartoon characters. 

Beginning in the mid-20th century and perhaps even earlier, the president of the United States has “pardoned” one or two Thanksgiving turkeys each year, sparing the birds from slaughter and sending them to a farm for retirement. A number of U.S. governors also perform the annual turkey pardoning ritual. 

Most Searched FAQs on Thanksgiving Day (USA): 

1. When is Thanksgiving Day celebrated? 

Thanksgiving Day is annually celebrated on every fourth Thursday of November in US. 

2. Why is Thanksgiving Day celebrated on fourth Thursday? 

President Franklin Roosevelt declared November’s fourth Thursday as Thanksgiving rather than the fifth one. FDR thought an earlier Thanksgiving would give merchants a longer period to sell goods before Christmas — and help bring the country out of the Depression. 

3. What is Thanksgiving and why is it celebrated? 

Thanksgiving Day, annual national holiday in the United States and Canada celebrating the harvest and other blessings of the past year. Americans generally believe that their Thanksgiving is modeled on a 1621 harvest feast shared by the English colonists (Pilgrims) of Plymouth and the Wampanoag people. 

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