When is Thanksgiving day and why celebrate it?
Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States, with its roots as a celebration of the agricultural harvest.
When is Thanksgiving Day?
- In the US, Thanksgiving Day is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday of November. This year it falls on Thursday, November 23.
- President Lincoln was the first US president to officially commemorate the festival as the last Thursday in November.
The date was set in stone by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 and approved by Congress in 1941.
It's an international celebration, also celebrated in Canada, Grenada, Philippines, Saint Lucia, Liberia and the Netherlands.
Canadians celebrate thanksgiving on the second Monday of October.
Why it is called thanksgiving?
- It began as a day where people took the opportunity of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year.
- In the United States, the celebration is often recognised as an event that took place when English colonists held a feast to thank Native Americans for helping them start new lives in America.
- "The First Thanksgiving" was celebrated after their first harvest in October, 1621. The feast lasted three days.
- Sarah Joseph Hale, editor of Godey's Lady Book, a colonial women's magazine, is believed to have made the celebration a national holiday in the United States.
- In support of the proposed national holiday, Hale wrote letters to five presidents of the United States. The letter she wrote to Lincoln convinced him to support legislation establishing a national holiday of thanksgiving in 1863.
- "You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritative fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution," she wrote.
- Before Thanksgiving Day, the only national holidays celebrated in the United States were Washington's Birthday and Independence Day.
- From the perspective of many Native Americans, the holiday symbolises centuries of land seizure and the erosion of tribal cultures.
- The United American Indians of New England protest group accuse the United States and European settlers of fabricating the Thanksgiving story and since 1970, it has organised a National Day of Mourning protest on the day.
Why is it celebrated with turkey?
The use of the turkey in the US for Thanksgiving precedes Lincoln's nationalisation of the holiday in 1863. In the 19th century, founding father Alexander Hamilton proclaimed that no "Citizen of the United States should refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day."
- Some give credit to Hale, whose accounts emphasised a roast turkey and eventually became the model for the festivities.
- Others believe the birds are large enough that they can feed many people, and they don't serve a purpose like laying eggs or making milk.
- More than 50 million turkeys are served up in the US every year for Thanksgiving.
- Dating back to at least 1947, US presidents were gifted with turkeys at Thanksgiving. However, these turkeys were generally eaten.
- Ronald Reagan was the first president to "pardon" a turkey, in 1987. His successor, George HW Bush, made the pardoning ceremony into a White House tradition from 1989 onwards.