All about Thanksgiving in the USA

Next to Independence Day, the most important holiday in the United States is Thanksgiving in late November. Do you know how Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day? We'll tell you all about this popular US holiday!

When is Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving used to be celebrated by the pilgrims throughout the year to celebrate a good harvest and didn’t have a specific date. Until 1941, when Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday in November the official national holiday Thanksgiving. Luckily for Americans, this usually means they get a long weekend, which many use to visit their families. This is why it is one of the most popular holidays for many Americans. 

Image of Give Thanks sign for Thanksgiving in the USA

Origins of Thanksgiving

There are many theories about the origins of Thanksgiving, but the most common one is:

  • from the times when pioneers and pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock
  • the pilgrims celebrated their first great harvest with the indigenous Native Americans
  • the feast is continued today to give thanks and spend time with family. 

So the first Thanksgiving can be traced back to autumn 1621 when the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians shared a meal together and gave thanks for the harvest.

How is Thanksgiving celebrated in the USA?

On this national holiday, families gather together to share a large meal with one another. The main focus of Thanksgiving is not the food though, but the importance of family and friends coming together. 

The usual Thanksgiving celebrations include:

  • eating turkey
  • watching American football
  • watching the Thanksgiving Parade 

It is quite common to use the long weekend to visit family and friends who may no longer live close to you. Americans tend to move often in their lives and may no longer live where they grew up. That is why Thanksgiving is so important. Many Americans get in their cars and make the long drive to gather with their loved ones. It will increase their hunger for the Thanksgiving feast!

Image of a Thanksgiving table with food

A roasted turkey stuffed with apples and bread crumbs served with gravy, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce is the center piece of every Thanksgiving meal. Some of the most popular dishes on the Thanksgiving table include:

  • a whole turkey and stuffing
  • cranberries, sweet potatoes and other autumn squashes
  • pecan and pumpkin pie for dessert

After eating their full of Turkey, many Americans turn to the living room to relax on the coach and watch American football. Football is one of America’s favorite pastimes and nothing helps you digest better than watching your favorite team score points! 

On this day, many charitable organizations also provide Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless or poor as well as holding food drives for the needy. Giving back to the community is all part of the spirit of Thanksgiving. 

Pardoning the turkey on Thanksgiving 

So many turkeys are eaten on Thanksgiving that the US president will pardon one in the spirit of Thanksgiving! This annual event is run by the National Turkey Foundation which chooses one or two turkeys to pardon each year. The turkeys even get their own secret service agents for protection when they are brought to the White House! 

The tradition of giving turkeys to the president spans back to 1873. John F. Kennedy is said to be the first to let the turkey go in 1963. However, the annual turkey pardon only became official in 1989 with President George H.W. Bush

Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City is the largest and most popular parade in the USA. In addition to the 2-3 million visitors, the parade is watched by millions of Americans at home on the television. Many families gather around the TV after Thanksgiving dinner to watch this spectacle and awe at the giant balloons. 

Image of Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York City

Black Friday and Cyber Monday after Thanksgiving

The Friday after Thanksgiving signalizes the start of the Christmas shopping season and has been named “Black Friday”. On this day, stores offer their products for extremely discounted prices. Sometimes stores even give away products to the first people who enter the store. That is why some people start lining up at the doors so early and some even spend the night in tents!

The name “Black Friday” for the largest shopping day in America has two possible origins: 

  • may symbolize the retailers’ successful increase in sales from negative “red” numbers to positive “black” numbers
  • may also refer to the large number of shoppers looking for a discount who block the streets the day after Thanksgiving. 

Today, Black Friday is only for the bravest of shoppers who dare to go and stand hours in line to get the best prices. It is then followed by Cyber Monday, the second biggest shopping day after Black Friday. It falls on the second Monday in December and is when online retailers start to lower prices and offer discounts. 

Win a permanent resident card by participating in the Green Card Lottery and maybe spend your next Thanksgiving Day eating turkey in the USA! We keep our fingers crossed so that you can say “Thank you for the Green Card” soon! Bon Appetit and the best of luck in the Green Card Lottery!