Thanksgiving Day is an annual national holiday in the United States and Canada celebrating the harvest and other blessings of the past year. In the US Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November while in Canada nearly one month and a half earlier (second Monday of October). Thanksgiving has deep roots in religious tradition, but nowadays it is primarily celebrated as a secular holiday.
Thanksgiving tradition began in early XVII century, but the date and popularity varied between states. First nation-wide Thanksgiving was proclaimed on November 26, 1789 by George Washington. The contemporary date of fourth Thursday of November was set in 1941 by federal legislation.
Thanksgiving is a great time to be thankful and appreciate who you have and what you have. It is a time for families to meet, socialize and enjoy each other’s company, sometimes the only opportunity in a year. Some prefer it to Christmas because of less emphasis on consumerism. Thanksgiving, for most, is also a start of a four day weekend which is great, too.
In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed national Thanksgiving Day to be celebrated on the final Thursday of November. The rule of declaring the final Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day was followed until 1939. In 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the fourth (next-to-last) Thursday of November as Thanksgiving instead of the last, fifth one. The change of Thanksgiving’s date was intended to extend the shopping season before Christmas and help bring the country out of The Great Depression. In the same manner, Thanksgiving in 1949 and 1941 was celebrated on third (next-to-last) Thursdays. In December 1941 Thanksgiving date was fixed as the fourth Thursday in November.
Interesting facts about Thanksgiving
- Canadian Thanksgiving predates American Thanksgiving by 43 years. The first Thanksgiving in North America was held in 1578 in what is now Newfoundland, Canada. It was 43 before the first American Thanksgiving which happened in 1621 at the site of Plymouth Plantation, in Massachusetts.
- Sarah Joseph Hale, who is the author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb” had contributed to the establishment of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. After 17 years of sending letters to President Lincoln, she had convinced him to support legislation establishing a national holiday of Thanksgiving in 1863. Before Thanksgiving, the only national holidays celebrated in the United States were Washington’s Birthday (Presidents’ Day) and Independence Day.
- The TV dinner was invented in 1953 when Swanson had 260 tons of leftover turkey from Thanksgiving and no idea what to do with it. When asked, one of the employees said that they should package it in trays with sides and freeze.
- There is a grocery in Paris named “Thanksgiving” that sells US food like Skippy peanut butter, Jello Instant Pudding, and Pop-Tarts to homesick ex-pats.
- The day after Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year for plumbers and septic companies who call it “Brown Friday”.
- NASA engineers responsible for the Voyager program calculated trajectories for around 10,000 launch windows, from which they selected about 100 that met the mission objectives while minimizing planetary encounters taking place over the Thanksgiving or Christmas, allowing them to spend the holidays at home.
- In 2013, Tony Rohr who was a manager at Pizza Hut franchise in Elkhart, Indiana, was fired for refusing to open on Thanksgiving Day so that his employees could spend the holiday with their families. He was offered the job back.