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What Is Thanksgiving All About?

Image representing students learning what Thanksgiving is all about

Christmas, which is celebrated all across the English-speaking world, is still six weeks away, but November marks another very important holiday in the USA. Here’s a guide to what Thanksgiving is all about and how people in America celebrate the holiday.

Where Does it Come From?

Thanksgiving goes all the way to back the 17th Century. In 1621, people who had migrated from Europe to America wanted to celebrate their first successful harvest.

A harvest is when you collect up all the food that you planted and grew that year, and many Europeans had found it nearly impossible to grow food when they first arrived in North America. When they managed to have their first good harvest, this was very exciting for them, and they believed they should say thank you to God for providing so much food this time.

The very first Thanksgiving feast took place at the Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts. It lasted for three days, and it was celebrated by the migrants (called the pilgrims) and the Wamponoag, a Native American tribe that lived in the area.

What Do People Eat At Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is mostly about eating food. Lots of food!

Back in the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the 17th century, people would have eaten birds like chicken and turkey, shellfish, venison (deer), chestnuts, squash, corn, and porridge.

This has changed a bit over time, but traditional foods are still a big part of the celebration. Families typically eat turkey with stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce, mashed potato, sweet potato and cornbread. For dessert, sweet pies are popular – particularly pumpkin, apple and pecan.

What Else Do People Do?

A popular tradition is to take the “wishbone” (the bone between the neck and the chest) from the turkey at the end of the meal, and then two people pull it apart until it cracks. The person with the bigger piece of the bone then makes a wish.

Saying thank you for what you have and giving things to others is another important part of Thanksgiving. Many people donate food and other items to charity, and it’s popular for families to sit around the table and each say what they are thankful for after dinner.

Since 1924, a huge parade has also been held in New York City every Thanksgiving, organized by Macy’s Department Store. This includes giant balloons showing famous characters, as well as marching bands, popular performers and people in costumes. The parade travels through the city from Central Park to Macy’s on 34th Street. The parade is also shown on TV every year.

Another important part of the day for many families is watching American Football. This goes right back to 1876, which was the first time a college football match was played on Thanksgiving, and going to a match became a popular tradition for students. Later, the NFL started to organise important matches on Thanksgiving Day, and today, after the big meal, lots of people settle in to watch a game on TV.

If you are currently living, working or studying in the United States, try to take part in a Thanksgiving Dinner or tradition of your own. It’s an important part of American culture – and a great opportunity to eat a lot of tasty food!

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