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Thanksgiving grace by an American family (1942)

Thanksgiving ( English for "Thanksgiving") is a harvest festival celebrated in the United States and Canada , the shape of which differs greatly from the European tradition of this festival.

In the United States , Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. The festival cites elements from the pioneering life of the Pilgrim Fathers ( Plymouth Colony) and thus has a certain national character. Thanksgiving is the most important family celebration of the year in the United States, and many families also invite friends or other guests. At its center is a large meal (often dinner). Since all generations of a family often gather together and they sometimes live scattered across all parts of the country, there is far more traffic on the country's airports and roads around the festival than at any other time of the year.

In Canada , the festival is celebrated on the second Monday in October. Thanksgiving is a public holiday in most provinces there, making it one of the popular long weekends of the year. The festival was originally scheduled for October 12th ( Columbus Day , the day on which the "New World" was discovered), but - like Columbus Day in the USA - it was moved to a Monday.



There are different views of where to set the starting point for Thanksgiving festivities. The first known harvest festival in North America was probably celebrated by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and the tribe of the Caddo on May 23, 1541 in what is now Texas . The discovery of food by the expedition of the Spaniards was celebrated.

A similar festival took place a few years later on September 8, 1565 in St. Augustine , Florida , where Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and his people celebrated their safe landing in the "New World".

The first Anglophone harvest festival may have taken place in Newfoundland in 1578 , where the navigator Martin Frobisher celebrated the safe return from an expedition to find the Northwest Passage .

Thanksgiving in Massachusetts 1621 in a 1912 painting

Another festival was celebrated on August 4, 1619 in what is now Virginia , where 38 colonists celebrated their arrival from England.

When the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth Rock , Massachusetts , they celebrated a three-day harvest festival with the local Wampanoag in the fall of 1621. Without their help, they would not have survived the following winter. Approx. 90 Wampanoag and 50 colonists are said to have participated in this celebration; but it is not historically proven. The indigenous people say that their Thanksgiving festivities took place many years earlier. The beginning of these celebrations has not yet been documented. Both Americans and Canadians attribute their Thanksgiving to this festival today. The Loyalists brought American Thanksgiving to Canada after the Revolutionary War .

Further development

A first Thanksgiving Day as US President propagated George Washington on October 3, 1789. President Abraham Lincoln set the date of the national holiday on October 3, 1863 the last Thursday of November each year fixed. In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to move the holiday to the Thursday before last in order to stimulate the economy with a longer shopping season before Christmas (November 1939 had five Thursdays). In the following two years there were sometimes contradicting regulations in the individual states, until the 1941 Congress compromised the holiday on the fourth Thursday in November.


This holiday is very controversial among the Indians . The reason Squanto was able to speak to them in English at the Feast of the Pilgrims' Fathers was that he and other Wampanoag had been taken to England by Captain Thomas Hunt . Later the Wampanoag were heavily decimated by diseases and wars brought in by the settlers and finally locked in reservations . In the subsequent colonization of the continent by the Europeans, some Indian tribes were completely destroyed and the others locked in reservations. Most of the descendants of the survivors do not see much point in celebrating the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers today.


US President George W. Bush (right) at the
White House on Thanksgiving 2006

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States and is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. In order to extend their weekend, employees also like to take Friday off. For this purpose, the term has Black Friday (Engl. For Black Friday ) naturalized. Schools and universities also often turn it into four to five days of tuition-free time. Even today, the whole family, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and children, usually comes together.

Although Thanksgiving is a national holiday, it is only formally proclaimed by the President of the United States a few days in advance of each year. In the proclamation, the US President regularly addresses important events of the past or the coming year. He also expresses the nation's gratitude to the Most High.

The traditional Thanksgiving meal there are dishes that it should already have been the first Thanksgiving feast: a roasted and stuffed turkey (Roasted Turkey) with a wide selection of side dishes and desserts such as cranberry - sauce , sweet potatoes (sweet potatoes), apple - and pumpkin pie, as well as vegetables like pumpkin , green peas and corn.

In the White House , the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation has established itself, at which the industry associations present the president each year with a turkey that the presidents have usually "pardoned" since the 1990s; the animal is not slaughtered.

Thanksgiving dinner is often accompanied by a thank you prayer , or everyone in turn says what they are especially grateful for this year. Such customs vary greatly from family to family or the respective group of friends. It is a custom, for example, for two party attendees to pull the dried wishbone of the turkey apart with their little finger until it breaks in two. The one whose piece is larger has a free wish. Unlike Christmas, gifts are unusual for Thanksgiving.

On “Black Friday” (the Friday after Thanksgiving), retailers traditionally offer high discounts. This day is often used for the first Christmas shopping, from then on it is increasingly Christmas decorations in public. For the economy, this day's turnover is an important indicator of sentiment.

Web links

Commons : Thanksgiving  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Thanksgiving  - explanations of meanings, origins of words, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Cornell University (Law School): Public Holidays List , US Code § 6103, accessed February 20, 2017
  2. Ford County, Kansas (English)
  3. Craig Wilson: Florida teacher chips away at Plymouth Rock Thanksgiving myth . USA Today. November 2007. Retrieved November 30, 2008.
  4. David Watts: Canada's first Thanksgiving: Frobisher set stage for our celebrations in different spirit than US ( English ) Edmonton Journal. September 2005. Archived from the original on October 13, 2007. Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Retrieved November 30, 2008. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. What happened in 1619? ( Memento of October 7, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  6. Barbara v. Jhering: The Myth of Thanksgiving . The time. November 1979. Retrieved December 1, 2008.
  7. ^ God and Thanksgiving ; Editorial from The New York Sun on November 25, 2010
  8. ^ For the text of President Obama's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation 2013, see e.g. B. here .