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The Story Behind Thanksgiving

A history behind a day of giving thanks for the events of the past year


What's going on?

Thanksgiving is a traditional celebration carried out in many countries around the world. However, the most famous example is the American Thanksgiving, probably due to the sheer amount of press it gets and the fame of American television. Indeed, people can be surprised to hear Canada has a similar festival too, yet held on a different date.


The American Thanksgiving dated back to 1621. The Pilgrims, who had crossed over a year earlier on the Mayflower had a very challenging year in the new country. As the harvest was collected, they celebrated a feast along with their Native American allies to give thanks for their first successful harvest. Similar thanksgiving celebrations were held on and off for years. However, in 1789, George Washington made a national proclamation to celebrate a day of Thanksgiving for the people to express their gratitude that their nation had won its independence.


Again, time passed, and in 1827, the editor and writer Sarah Josepha Hale, launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday. President Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her call in 1863 at the height of the Civil War, scheduling Thanksgiving Day to be celebrated on the last Sunday in November. It was a day entreating Americans to ask God to commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife and to heal the wounds of the nation. In more recent times, along with it being a time for families to get together and give thanks for the past year, there are also parades, such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which in 2018 was watched by 50 million people on television nationwide.


Thanksgiving 2019 - Tradition, Origins & Meaning