Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Thanksgiving Day in the United States

17 Nov 2016
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Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Day, is a public holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States. It originated as a harvest festival. Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789, after a proclamation by George Washington. It has been celebrated as a federal holiday every year since 1863, when, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. Together with Christmas and the New Year, Thanksgiving is a part of the broader holiday season.

thanksgiving-day

The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621.This feast lasted three days, and—as accounted by attendee Edward Winslow—it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgivings”—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.

Traditional celebrations

Charity

The poor are often provided with food at Thanksgiving time. Most communities have annual food drives that collect non-perishable packaged and canned foods, and corporations sponsor charitable distributions of staple foods and Thanksgiving dinners. The Salvation Army enlists volunteers to serve Thanksgiving dinners to hundreds of people in different locales.[42][43] Additionally, pegged to be five days after Thanksgiving is Giving Tuesday, a celebration of charitable giving.

Foods of the season

U.S. tradition compares the holiday with a meal held in 1621 by the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims who settled at Plymouth Plantation. It is continued in modern times with the Thanksgiving dinner, traditionally featuring turkey, playing a central role in the celebration of Thanksgiving.

In the United States, certain kinds of food are traditionally served at Thanksgiving meals. Turkey, usually roasted and stuffed (but sometimes deep-fried instead), is typically the featured item on any Thanksgiving feast table, so much so that Thanksgiving is colloquially known as “Turkey Day.” In fact, 45 million turkeys were consumed on Thanksgiving Day alone in 2015. With 85 percent of Americans partaking in the meal, that’s an estimated 276 million Americans dining on the festive poultry, spending an expected $1.05 billion on turkeys for Thanksgiving in 2016.

Mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, various fall vegetables, squash, and pumpkin pie are commonly associated with Thanksgiving dinner. Green bean casserole was introduced in 1955 and remains a favorite. All of these are actually native to the Americas or were introduced as a new food source to the Europeans when they arrived. Turkey may be an exception. In his book Mayflower, Nathaniel Philbrick suggests that the Pilgrims might already have been familiar with turkey in England, even though the bird is native to the Americas. The Spaniards had brought domesticated turkeys back from Central America in the early 17th century, and the birds soon became popular fare all over Europe, including England, where turkey (as an alternative to the traditional goose) became a “fixture at English Christmases”. The Pilgrims did not observe Christmas.

As a result of the size of Thanksgiving dinner, Americans eat more food on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year.

Giving thanks

Thanksgiving was founded as a religious observance for all the members of the community to give thanks to God for a common purpose. Historic reasons for community thanksgivings are: the 1541 thanksgiving mass after the expedition of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado safely crossing the high plains of Texas and finding game,and the 1777 thanksgiving after the victory in the Revolutionary War Battle of Saratoga.In his 1789 National Thanksgiving Proclamation, President Washington gave many noble reasons for a national Thanksgiving, including “for the civil and religious liberty”, for “useful knowledge”, and for God’s “kind care” and “His Providence”.After President Washington delivered this message, the “Episcopal Church, of which President Washington was a member, announced that the first Thursday in November would become its regular day for giving thanks”. After Washington, the only presidents to express a specifically Christian perspective in their proclamation have been Grover Cleveland in 1896,and William McKinley in 1900.Several other presidents have cited the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The tradition of giving thanks to God is continued today in many forms, most notably the attendance of religious services, as well as the saying of a mealtime prayer before Thanksgiving dinner. Many houses of worship offer worship services and events on Thanksgiving themes the weekend before, the day of, or the weekend after Thanksgiving. At home, it is a holiday tradition in many families to begin the Thanksgiving dinner by saying grace (a prayer before or after a meal). The custom is portrayed in the photograph “Family Holding Hands and Praying Before a Thanksgiving Meal”. Before praying, it is a common practice at the dining table for “each person [to] tell one specific reason they’re thankful to God that year.”While grace is said, many families hold hands until the prayer concludes, often indicated with an “Amen”.Traditionally, grace was led by the hostess or host, though in later times it is usual for others to contribute.

Joy Fisher, a Baptist Christian writer, states that “this holiday takes on a spiritual emphasis and includes recognition of the source of the blessings they enjoy year round — a loving God.”In the same vein, Hesham A. Hassaballa, an American Muslim scholar and physician, has written that Thanksgiving “is wholly consistent with Islamic principles” and that “few things are more Islamic than thanking God for His blessings”.Similarly many Sikh Americans also celebrate the holiday by “giving thanks to Almighty”.

Parades

Since 1924, in New York City, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is held annually every Thanksgiving Day from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square, and televised nationally by NBC. The parade features parade floats with specific themes, scenes from Broadway plays, large balloons of cartoon characters, TV personalities, and high school marching bands. The float that traditionally ends the Macy’s Parade is the Santa Claus float, the arrival of which is an unofficial sign of the beginning of the Christmas season.

Also founded in 1924, America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit is one of the largest parades in the country. The parade runs from Midtown to Downtown Detroit and precedes the annual Detroit Lions Thanksgiving football game. The parade includes large balloons, marching bands, and various celebrity guests much like the Macy’s parade and is nationally televised on various affiliate stations. The Mayor of Detroit closes the parade by giving Santa Claus a key to the city.

There are Thanksgiving parades in many other cities, including:

  • 6abc Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
  • Ameren Missouri Thanksgiving Day Parade[61] (St. Louis, Missouri)
  • America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Parade (Plymouth, Massachusetts)
  • Belk Carolinas’ Carrousel Parade (Charlotte, North Carolina)
  • Celebrate the Season Parade (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
  • FirstLight Federal Credit Union Sun Bowl Parade(El Paso, Texas)
  • H-E-B Holiday Parade(Houston, Texas)
  • McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Parada de los Cerros Thanksgiving Day Parade(Fountain Hills, Arizona)
  • UBS Parade Spectacular (Stamford, Connecticut) – held the Sunday before Thanksgiving so it doesn’t directly compete with the Macy’s parade 30 miles (48 km) away.

Most of these parades are televised on a local station, and some have small, usually regional, syndication networks; most also carry the parades via Internet television on the TV stations’ websites.

Several other parades have a loose association with Thanksgiving, thanks to CBS’s now-discontinued All-American Thanksgiving Day Parade coverage. Parades that were covered during this era were the Aloha Floral Parade held in Honolulu, Hawaii every September, the Toronto Santa Claus Parade in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and the Opryland Aqua Parade (held from 1996 to 2001 by the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville); the Opryland parade was discontinued and replaced by a taped parade in Miami Beach, Florida in 2002. A Disneyland parade was also featured on CBS until Disney purchased rival ABC.

For many years the Santa Claus Lane Parade (now Hollywood Christmas Parade) in Los Angeles was held on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving. In 1978 this was switched to the Sunday following the holiday.

Sports

American football

American football is an important part of many Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States, a tradition that dates to the earliest era of the sport in the late 19th century. Professional football games are often held on Thanksgiving Day; until recently, these were the only games played during the week apart from Sunday or Monday night. The National Football League has played games on Thanksgiving every year since its creation. The Detroit Lions have hosted a game every Thanksgiving Day from 1934 to 1938 and again every year since 1945. In 1966, the Dallas Cowboys, who had been founded six years earlier, adopted the practice of hosting Thanksgiving games. The league added a third game in prime time in 2006, which aired on the NFL Network, then moved to NBC in 2012. The third game has no set site or team, providing an opportunity for all teams in the league to host a Thanksgiving game in the future.

For many college football teams, the regular season ends on Thanksgiving weekend, and a team’s final game is often against a regional or historic rival, such as the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn, the Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State, the Apple Cup between Washington and Washington State, and Michigan and Ohio State playing in their rivalry game. Most of these college games are played on the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving, but usually one or two college games are played on Thanksgiving itself.

Some high school football games (which include some state championship games), and informal “Turkey Bowl” contests played by amateur groups and organizations, are frequently held on Thanksgiving weekend. Games of football preceding or following the meal in the backyard or a nearby field are also common during many family gatherings. Amateur games typically follow less organized backyard-rules, two-hand touch or flag football styles.

Television

While not as prolific as Christmas specials, which usually begin right after Thanksgiving, there are many special television programs transmitted on or around Thanksgiving, such as A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, in addition to the live parades and football games mentioned above. In some cases, television broadcasters begin programming Christmas films and specials to run on Thanksgiving Day, taking the day as a signal for the beginning of the Christmas season.

Radio

“Alice’s Restaurant”, an 18-minute monologue by Arlo Guthrie that is partially based on an incident that happened on Thanksgiving in 1965, was first released in 1967. It has since become a tradition on numerous classic rock and classic hits radio stations to play the full, uninterrupted recording to much fanfare each Thanksgiving Day, a tradition that appears to have originated with counterculture radio host Bob Fass, who introduced the song to the public on his radio show. Another song that traditionally gets played on numerous radio stations (of many different formats) is “The Thanksgiving Song”, a 1992 song by Adam Sandler.

Prominent radio host Rush Limbaugh has an annual tradition known as The Real Story of Thanksgiving, in which he gives his interpretation of the Thanksgiving story on his program the day before Thanksgiving. The public radio series Science Friday broadcasts coverage of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremonies on the day after Thanksgiving.

Football play-by-play and, in at least one case, parade coverage, is also available on the radio.

Turkey pardoning

Since 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented the President of the United States with one live turkey and two dressed turkeys, in a ceremony known as the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation. John F. Kennedy was the first president reported to spare the turkey given to him (he announced he didn’t plan to eat the bird), and Ronald Reagan was the first to grant the turkey a presidential pardon, which he jokingly presented to his 1987 turkey (a turkey that would indeed be spared and sent to a petting zoo).

There are legends that state that the “pardoning” tradition dates to the Harry Truman administration or even to an anecdote of Abraham Lincoln pardoning his son’s pet turkey (a Christmas turkey); both stories have been quoted in more recent presidential speeches, but neither has any evidence in the Presidential record.In more recent years, two turkeys have been pardoned, in case the original turkey becomes unavailable for presidential pardoning.

George H. W. Bush, who served as vice president under Reagan, made the turkey pardon a permanent annual tradition upon assuming the presidency in 1989, a tradition that has been carried on by every president each year since.The pardoned turkeys have typically ended up in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.From 1989 to 2004 they were sent to a children’s farm called “Frying Pan Farm Park” in Herndon, Virginia. From 2009 to 2013 they were sent to George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate near Alexandria, Virginia, and in 2014 they were sent to an estate in Leesburg, Virginia once owned by former state governor and turkey farmer Westmoreland Davis.However, from 2005 to 2009 they were sent to either Walt Disney World or Disneyland.The turkeys rarely live to see the next Thanksgiving due to being bred for large size.

Vacation and travel

On Thanksgiving Day, families and friends usually gather for a large meal or dinner. Consequently, the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is one of the busiest travel periods of the year. Thanksgiving is a four-day or five-day weekend vacation for schools and colleges. Most business and government workers (78% in 2007) are given Thanksgiving and the day after as paid holidays. Thanksgiving Eve, the night before Thanksgiving, is one of the busiest nights of the year for bars and clubs (where it is often identified by the derogatory name Blackout Wednesday), as many college students and others return to their hometowns to reunite with friends and family.