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Why Do Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving Day

Why Do Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving Day on an Autumn Leave Background

Thanksgiving dates back to 1789, originating as a Harvest festival and was celebrated after a request by congress.

The original Thanksgiving proclamation was signed & delivered by George Washington on October 3rd, 1789 – from this day forward the final Thursday of November was to be entirely devoted to a public thanksgiving for the blessing of the harvest, prayers and eating together as a family.

However observing Thanksgiving didn’t really take hold property until 1863, with Thomas Jefferson choosing not to recognise the holiday, making the celebrations much more intermittent.

It wasn’t until Abraham Lincoln become president that Thanksgiving was made a “federal holiday” during the American Civil War. 

Lincoln proclaimed a national day –

Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens

– to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November

In 1940-41 Franklin D Roosevelt changed the Thursday to the “fourth Thursday in November” (allegedly to give shops a longer period to sell goods before Christmas) causing some people to celebrate on that fourth Thursday (known as the “Republican Thanksgiving“) and others to celebrate on the last Thursday (known as the “Democratic Thanksgiving”) in November (there were 5 Thursdays in November in 1940).

Other than that change, Thanksgiving has been celebrated on the last Thursday in November since the declaration by Abraham Lincoln.

Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner

Photo by SJ Baren on Unsplash


Turkey is the most traditional Thanksgiving meal, usually roasted and stuffed, and is so common that people sometimes colloquially refer to this as “Turkey Day“, along with mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, sweet corn and cranberry sauce. Other side dishes include brussels sprouts, pumpkin pie and squash.


Most communities in America have annual food drives that collect non-perishable foods & canned foods to provide the poor with food. Five days after Thanksgiving has also become known as “Giving Tuesday“.

Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade

Photo Credit:


Parades have become very popular on Thanksgiving Day, most notably Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Detroit’s “America’s Thanksgiving Parade. But many other cities have a Thanksgiving Parade including:

  • Stamford in Connecticut (UBS Parade Spectacular)
  • St Louis in Missouri (Ameren Missiouri Thanksgiving Parade)
  • Fountain Hills in Arizona (Parada De Los Cerros Thanksgiving Day Parade)
  • Plymouth in Massachusetts (America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Parade)
  • Peoria in Illinois (Santa Claus Parade)
  • Charlotte in North Carolina (Belk Carolina’s Carousel Parade)
  • Chicago in Illinois (Uncle Dan’s Thanksgiving Parade)
  • Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania (Celebrate The Season Parade)
  • Houston in Texas (H-E-B Holiday Parade)
  • El Paso in Texas (Firstlight Federal Credit Union Sun Bowl Parade)



Since Thanksgiving was founded as a religious observance for all members in a community to give thanks to God, it is traditional for families to say a Thanksgiving prayer (Grace) before the Thanksgiving meal is served.

Some families also attend a Thanksgiving service at their local church on Thanksgiving Day (although many places of worship will have Thanksgiving events before, during and after Thanksgiving Day)

Some families will also have each person sat around the dinner table declare one specific reason they are thankful to God for that particular year.

Keep an eye out for our Christmas Celebrations around the world blog posts!

Feature Photo Credit: Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

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