The most traditional of American Holidays, here are some quick facts about Thanksgiving in the United States!
What is Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is a Federal Holiday in the US. The event celebrates the "First Thanksgiving", where Pilgrims and Native Americans joined together to celebrate the harvest. The Pilgrims were mainly Puritans, a religious group who had "Days of Thanks" and "Days of Fast". Oliver Cromwell was a Puritan, he famously tried to ban Christmas in the UK due to his Puritan beliefs, so perhaps in an alternate universe the UK would be celebrating Thanksgiving too! Lincoln declared it a Federal Holiday in 1863, and due to it being based on American history rather then religious beliefs, it is celebrated by almost everyone in the US regardless of personal background.
When is it celebrated?
On the fourth Thursday of November. This year it fell on the 23rd of November, so almost exactly a month before Christmas.
What do people do on Thanksgiving?
Though I can't speak for everyone, most Americans celebrate with a roast dinner (usually turkey) shared among friends and family. Though most tend to celebrate with family, "friendsgiving" is also very popular, particularly among young city dwellers and those who, for whatever reason, can't go home. The meal is often mid-afternoon, and many watch American football games on TV, films or play board games.
What do people eat?
Thanksgiving dinner is very much based on family traditions. I've heard of "Thanksgiving Stir Fries", "Thanksgiving Korean BBQ Turkey". Pretty much anything goes as long as you're eating and spending time with family and friends. I have listed some of the more common Thanksgiving foods:
For the main dish:
TURKEY! (Even though the original Pilgrims ate everything BUT turkey, this is the most popular dish, it can be roasted, deep fried, spatchcock, you choose) - fun fact, the President pardons turkeys, a slighly odd tradition but sweet nonetheless.
Potatoes (normal or sweet, usually mashed, sometimes with marshmallow on top!)
Vegetables (seasonal ones like carrots, creamy kale, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, green beans)
Pie (Pumpkin, Pecan, Apple, Berry)
Cookies (gooey chocolate chip yes please).
Chocolates and themed goodies
Basically anything with pumpkin spice (rolls, cheesecake, cookies, cake)
Do people give gifts?
Unlike Christmas, Thanksgiving is purely about spending time with family and friends. No gifts are exchanged (except maybe a bottle of wine for the host). For many they actually prefer Thanksgiving because there is no pressure to exchange gifts, leaving more time to genuinely just appreciate spending time together.
There you have it! My beginner's guide to Thanksgiving. Stay tuned for another Thanksgiving themed post soon!