Thanksgiving is, as the name suggests, a holiday for giving thanks. It is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November each year in the United States. Other countries, such as Germany, Canada, Liberia, and The Netherlands, celebrate their own Thanksgiving days throughout the year.
Although there is some controversy surrounding the history and origins of Thanksgiving, it is generally accepted to have initially commemorated the survival of the Pilgrims after a brutal winter in the New World in 1621.
Nearly half of the Pilgrims who arrived in the area of Massachusetts in 1620 died before the first spring. The survivors were fortunate to meet Tisquantum, better known as Squanto, a member of the Paxutet band of the Wampanoag Confederation who spoke English. Squanto had been captured and forced into enslavement in England, and later self-liberated and returned to the New World.
Squanto helped the Pilgrims by showing them how to grow crops, such as corn, and how to fish. He also helped them establish an alliance with the Wampanoag Confederation living in the area.
When the Pilgrims harvested their first successful crop, they held a three-day festival of thanksgiving with the Wampanoag people. This is traditionally held to be the first Thanksgiving.
It wasn’t until the early 1800’s that states began adopting their own official Thanksgiving holidays, with New York being one of the earliest in 1817. Abraham Lincoln officially proclaimed the last Thursday in November 1863 to be a national day of thanksgiving.
In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill officially designating the fourth Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday.
Thanksgiving meals and traditions vary from family to family, but most Americans mark the day by enjoying a family meal together. Traditional Thanksgiving foods include turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, corn, and pies such as pumpkin and pecan.
Article by By Beverly Hernandez for Thoughtco.com