Thanksgiving Day


The First Thanksgiving 1621, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1899).

It’s probably because I watch too many American TV shows, many of which have had Thanksgiving specials, but I’ve always thought of Thanksgiving Day as being something celebrated only in the USA. I was a little surprised, therefore, to find both that is celebrated in several countries and that its roots actually go back to post-Reformation England, no doubt prompted by the Pilgrim Fathers’ journey across the pond on the Mayflower. This is not to deny the day its American roots either – it seems that celebrations have taken place in some places there since the late 16th century. I’ll admit to having to do a little research on this, as what I knew about it could have been written on a postage stamp and still left room for my signature.

Basically, the day is to give thanks for a good harvest, before the onset of winter. In the UK this is very much a church thing, with Harvest Festival services in late September, but these have not developed into a fully blown day of celebration – we in the UK are not blessed with a bounty of public holidays! It was first set in statute in the USA in 1861, and has been celebrated on the 4th Thursday in November since President Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress in 1941. I know that it is a major holiday in the US, not just the commercial aspects but as a day of family celebration. Even Google recognises it – switch to the US version of their homepage today and you’ll find this:


Macy’s famous Thanksgiving Day parade

imageTurkey is the traditional meal for Thanksgiving Day, as you can see from the table set here. There are parades, NFL games and a host of other celebrations too, and the day marks the start of a long weekend break, as well as being the unofficial start of the Christmas season.

I read in the paper the other day that one of those surveys had concluded that one in six would be celebrating the day here in the UK. Does that mean there are 10m Americans living here or are we Brits succumbing to yet another US import! Whatever, you guys sure know how to party, so




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