Thanksgiving Day in the USA: history and traditions

Thanksgiving in 2020 is celebrated in the United States on November 26. This significant holiday for every American is celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday of November. This is one of the most popular holidays in the country. Thanksgiving was first celebrated in 1621 by English colonists who lived in the Plymouth colony.

 The very idea of celebrating autumn and the end of the harvest dates back to the deepest antiquity. However, for Americans, the holiday traces its history back to the first settlers who arrived from England to America at the end of 1620 after a two-month voyage on a ship. The passengers, a group of English pilgrims fleeing religious persecution in their homeland, set out on such a dangerous journey in the hope of establishing a colony in the New World where they could finally find their desired freedom.

 The first year in the new place was very harsh. The settlers had to endure hunger, cold, hardships and diseases. After a harsh winter, during which about half of the settlers died, they learned, with the help of Indian neighbors, to grow corn and other crops adapted to local conditions, to distinguish edible plants from poisonous ones, to find springs with drinking water, hunting trails and fishing spots.

 In the autumn of 1621, the colonists gathered a good harvest, for which they decided to thank the Lord by arranging a festive treat. The festival, which lasted three days, was attended by Indians who helped the colonists.

 It is believed that this holiday originated from the European tradition of celebrating harvest Day. In the following years, the colonists held a celebration only when the harvest was good, and then only occasionally. Over time, the holiday lost its religious significance. In different states, the holiday was celebrated on different days, and then began to coincide with military victories.

 For a long time, the holiday was unofficial in New England. The first official Thanksgiving Day was declared in 1777 by the Continental Congress, which established December 18, 1777 as Thanksgiving day.

 After two years of confusion and complaints, on December 26, 1941, President Roosevelt signed a law establishing the celebration of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November.

Over the years, the holiday has developed a number of traditions that Americans cherish and observe. Thanksgiving is usually celebrated in the house of the family elder in the circle of relatives. Relatives and friends come from all over the country to sit at a common table, covered with traditional treats. This is certainly Turkey, sweet potato yams with whipped flower sauce, cranberry sauce, filling of breadcrumbs with spices, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and gravy – which, according to historians, was on the tables of colonists in the distant XVII century.

The house is decorated with autumn attributes-bouquets of orange, gold, brown chrysanthemums and branches with berries, which are identified with the rich harvest of this year. Before starting a meal, whether with family or friends, it is customary to offer thanks for these gifts, including the joy of meeting on the occasion of the holiday.

If someone is left without a festive dinner, then they will be invited by charitable organizations. On this day, the President himself helps feed the homeless, the poor and the elderly, putting generous portions on their plates. The head of state should show the country an example of charity and respect for traditions.     

One of the famous attributes of the holiday are parades, mostly costumed-in the clothes of the XVII century and Indian costumes. The most famous parade is held annually in New York. It is organized by the world's largest chain of department stores "Macy’s" since the 1920s. The main attraction of the parade are huge inflatable toys – cartoon characters, fairy tales and TV shows that are carried from Central Park to the entrance to the Department store between Seventh Avenue and Broadway.

The parade is broadcast on television. In the evening, fireworks are set off over the East river, which separates New York from Brooklyn. There is also a tradition of writing songs for Thanksgiving. One of the relatively new Thanksgiving traditions is watching National Football League game. After Thanksgiving, traditional pre-Christmas sales start working all over America.


                Nazira Artykbayeva, Librarian of the International Book Department