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Editor: Cherie D. Abbey
Date: 2010
Document Type: Topic overview
Pages: 2
Content Level: (Level 4)

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Page 752


Fourth Thursday in November (U.S.); second Monday in October (Canada)

The Pilgrim settlers of New England were not the first to set aside a day for expressing their gratitude to God for the harvest. The Greeks and the Romans paid tribute to their agricultural goddesses, the Anglo-Saxons celebrated LAMMAS and HARVEST HOME FESTIVAL, and the Jews have their eight-day SUKKOT, or Feast of Tabernacles. The first American Thanksgiving was entirely religious, and took place on December 4, 1619, when a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Plantation on the James River. Their charter decreed that their day of arrival be celebrated yearly as a day of thanksgiving to God.

But most Americans think of the first “official” Thanksgiving as being the one that took place at Plymouth Colony in October 1621, a year after the Pilgrims first landed on the New England coast. They were joined in their three-day feast by Massasoit, the chief of the Wampanoag Indians, and about 90 of his fellow tribesmen.

The Episcopal Church and many states declared Thanksgiving holidays, but it wasn't until 1863 that President Abraham LINCOLN proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day to give thanks. Each year thereafter, for 75 years, the president proclaimed the same day to be celebrated. In 1939, however, President Franklin D. ROOSEVELT moved it one week earlier to allow more time for Christmas shopping. Finally, Congress ruled that the fourth Thursday of November would be the legal federal holiday of Thanksgiving after 1941. Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October.

Today Thanksgiving is a time for family reunions and traditions, most of which center around the preparation of an elaborate meal featuring turkey and a dozen or so accompanying dishes. Although some people go to special church services on Thanksgiving day, far more line the streets of Philadelphia, Detroit, and New York City, where huge parades are held. In many places Santa Claus arrives in town on this day, and the widespread sales that begin in department stores the next day mark the start of the CHRISTMAS shopping season.

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Library of Congress
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Canadian Heritage
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Gatineau, QC K1A 0M5 Canada

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BkHolWrld-1986, Nov 27
DaysCustFaith-1957, p. 300
EncyChristmas-2003, p. 443
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GdUSFest-1984, p. 89
HolSymbols-2009, p. 951
OxYear-1999, p. 654
PatHols-2006, p. 237
RelHolCal-2004, p. 106

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX2768202753