Thanksgiving Day traditionally kicks off the 'holiday season' in the United States. It is often regarded as the Day of the Turkey
The day was set in stone by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 and approved by Congress in 1941. FDR changed it from Abraham Lincoln's designation as the last Thursday in November (because there are sometimes five Thursdays in the month).
While Britons think of it as a warm-up for the Yuletide period, many Americans think it of it as just as important as Christmas
In fact, more people in the US celebrate Thanksgiving than do Christmas. Thanksgiving Day is secular holiday in a country that officially separates church and state so this probably makes sense.
What is the history of Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving Day can be traced back to the 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation, where the religious refugees from England known popularly as the Pilgrims invited the local Native Americans to a harvest feast after a particularly successful growing season.
The First Thanksgiving 1621, oil on canvas by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1899)
The previous year's harvests had failed and in the winter of 1620 half of the pilgrims had starved to death.
Luckily for the rest, members of the local Wampanoag tribe taught the Pilgrims how to grow corn, beans and squash (the Three Sisters); catch fish, and collect seafood.
So why do Americans eat Turkey on Thanksgiving Day?
There are only two contemporary accounts of the 1621 Thanksgiving, but it's clear that Turkey was not on the menu. The three-day feast included goose, lobster, cod and deer.
Pilgrim Edward Winslow wrote a letter about that now-famous meal in 1621 which mentioned a turkey hunt before the dinner.
Another theory says the choice of turkey was inspired by Queen Elizabeth I who was eating dinner when she heard that Spanish ships had sunk on their way to attack England.
Queenie was so thrilled with the news she ordered another goose be served. Some claim early US settlers roasted turkeys as they were inspired by her actions.
Others say that as wild turkeys are native to North America, they were a natural choice for early settlers.
Who set the date of Thanksgiving Day?
'The National Thanksgiving Proclamation' was the first formal proclamation of Thanksgiving in America. The first President of the United States George Washington made this proclamation on October 3, 1789.
Then in 1846, author Sarah Josepha Hale waged a one-woman campaign for Thanksgiving to be recognised as a truly national holiday.
Abraham Lincoln and Sarah Josepha Hale conspired to fix Thankgiving Day across the US
In the US the day had previously been celebrated only in New England and was largely unknown in the American South. All the other states scheduled their own Thanksgiving holidays at different times, some as early as October and others as late as January.
Hale's advocacy for the national holiday lasted 17 years and four presidencies before the letter she wrote to Lincoln was successful. In 1863 at the height of the Civil War he supported legislation which established a national holiday of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November.
Lincoln perhaps wanted the date to tie in with the anchoring of the Mayflower at Cape Cod, which occurred on November 21, 1620. Although we now use the Gregorian calendar. In 1621 the date would have been November 11 to the Pilgrims who used the Julian calendar.
So Hale finally got her wish. She is perhaps now better known, though, for writing the nursery rhyme 'Mary Had a Little Lamb'.
So on thanksgiving day, three things happen across the United States -
1. Presidential Turkey Pardon
Go in peace (not in pieces): President Obama pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey during the 68th annual presentation of the turkey in the Rose Garden of the White House
3. The Annual Macy's Parade
So, here's wishing all Americans a Happy Thanksgiving Day and a healthy appetite to enjoy the turkey meal
Original Article: American Thanksgiving Day