Q:

How did Thanksgiving start?

A:

Quick Answer

The American tradition of Thanksgiving began with a three-day feast that took place in 1621 to celebrate a bountiful harvest. It became cemented as an annual celebration in 1863, when President Lincoln declared a "day of Thanksgiving" in the midst of the Civil War.

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How did Thanksgiving start?
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Full Answer

The Pilgrims started the Thanksgiving tradition because they were so happy to have survived their first brutal winter and to have made a successful harvest with the help of the Native Americans in the area. After the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621, they celebrated with other feasts from time to time but not on an annual basis. Throughout colonial times, the holiday continued to be celebrated sporadically, without any coordination between the different colonies. During the Revolutionary period, the governing bodies of the new United States began to call for days of giving thanks, and in 1789 President George Washington proclaimed the first national day of "thanksgiving and prayer." The holiday did not become an annual tradition at that point, but different states and individuals continued to celebrate it. Finally, with Lincoln's proclamation, the holiday became an annual tradition at the national level. The holiday has undergone only one major change since then: in 1939. President Franklin Roosevelt changed its date from the final Thursday in November to the next-to-last Thursday in November. He made this change in hopes that a longer Christmas shopping season would boost retailers' profits.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Do Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?

    A:

    Thanksgiving stirs mixed feelings amongst Native Americans. Many see Thanksgiving in a negative light and refer to it as ‘a day of mourning’ in memory of the injustices their ancestors faced at the hands of pilgrims. There are those however, who celebrate Thanksgiving in line with Native American traditions.

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  • Q:

    What countries celebrate Thanksgiving?

    A:

    Thanksgiving Day is a holiday that is celebrated only in North America, as Canada and the United States are the only two countries that celebrate a holiday by the name Thanksgiving. Other countries around the world that celebrate a holiday similar to the celebration of Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada are China, Brazil, Malaysia, India and Korea. Thanksgiving is a harvest-related festival.

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  • Q:

    How do people celebrate Thanksgiving?

    A:

    In the United States, people celebrate Thanksgiving with food, family, helping others and engaging in live or televised entertainment. Thanksgiving in the U.S. falls on the fourth Thursday in November, and recurs annually. Generally, people view Thanksgiving as a family-oriented event and begin holiday celebrations on Thanksgiving Thursday, although some families extend the celebration for longer.

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  • Q:

    Which countries celebrate Thanksgiving?

    A:

    Aside from America, the nations of Liberia and Canada, the Australian territory of Norfolk Island and the unincorporated American territory of Puerto Rico are known to celebrate Thanksgiving as a national holiday every year. Canada celebrates its Thanksgiving in October, Liberia commemorates this occasion in early November, and Puerto Rico celebrates at the same time as the continental United States.

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