In the region of modern Virginia Thanksgiving was celebrated from the very beginning of the 17th century. As English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred in 1619, they demanded the day of their arrival to be annually celebrated “as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God”. In 1621 a special thanksgiving celebration took place in Plymouth. The Pilgrims, as were called Plymouth settlers, were taught by a native American, the last Patuxet surviving from a plague, how to catch eel and grow corn. Their first harvest was a huge event for them, and they celebrated it for three days. Although in that time the feast was not classified as Thanksgiving, it is nowadays considered as the most prominent thanksgiving event in American history, and many people believe that this was the archetype of Thanksgiving as it is celebrated today.
In 1777 the Continental Congress gave the First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving – it was held on Thursday, December 18. Many other proclamations were published in the following years on different days. For example, in 1795 George Washington proclaimed Thanksgiving on Thursday, February 19. Some Presidents, however, such as Thomas Jefferson, did not proclaim any thanksgiving day.
Thanks to President Abraham Lincoln since 1863 Thanksgiving has been observed on the last Thursday of November every year in the United States. His successors took care of the tradition to be continued, but it was changed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939, when he declared the fourth Thursday of November instead of the last one to be celebrated as Thanksgiving. Since 1942 the date was officially changed to the fourth Thursday of November, and this date is prevailing until today.
There are, of course, some traditions connected with Thanksgiving Day. A traditional Thanksgiving meal includes turkey – a symbol of American Thanksgiving, stuffing, potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie. Many people travel to meet their family and eat the meal together. It is also a great occasion to give thanks for what people have – many Americans do that during religious services or prayers before the Thanksgiving dinner. Most organizations, schools and businesses are closed that day. Many poor people are provided food while Thanksgiving dinners are being served for them by volunteers.
Did you know?
Thanksgiving dinner is so important and so big, that Thanksgiving Day is the day when Americans consume the biggest amounts of food during the year. The second place belongs to Superbowl Sunday. There is one more thing connecting these two holidays – sport. As a tradition, American football is also an important Thanksgiving tradition.
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