Here’s is how and why Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving today

Thursday, 26th November 2020, 2:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th November 2020, 2:26 pm

Happy Thanksgiving!

Many Americans will have travelled across states to be with their loved ones as they celebrate the American annual holiday.

But why do they celebrate, have they always indulged in pumpkin pie and turkey dinners and will it be different this year? here is what you need to know.

How did Thanksgiving start?

Thanksgiving originated as a harvest festival, with a huge feast being the centrepiece of celebrations.

The event comes from what the Americans call the ‘First Thanksgiving’, when the pilgrims hosted a celebratory feast after their first successful harvest in 1621.

The Wampanoag, a North American Indian tribe, had called a truce with the pilgrims who had settled on their land in 1620.

The 1621 celebration is believed to be the first shared feast since an end to unrest between the two groups.

What food was typical on Thanksgiving?

In the early days of Thanksgiving, Americans would spend days praying and feasting on seasonal produce as a means of showing appreciation for military victories, successful harvesting and good health.

However, there was no pumpkin pie at the dinner table in 1621.

Instead it is likely they would have feasted on corn, venison and porridge as this was the most common and abundant harvest and game available.

What food does Thanksgiving dinner consist of today?

Today, Thanksgiving is known for huge turkey dinners with mashed potato, trimmings, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies for dessert.

Well-known writer Sarah Josepha Buell Hale - also known as the ‘Godmother of Thanksgiving’ - campaigned to have thanksgiving made into a national day of celebration, and according to Time Magazine, she published recipes of turkey dinners, stuffing and pumpkin pie in the 1800s.

It is thought that Americans then associated these dishes with the annual holiday and so the tradition began.

Turkey is thought to be included in the dinner as it is native to North America, and its size makes it perfect for large feasts.

Pumpkins, which are ready to be picked between September and November are also native to North America, making them the perfect root vegetable to enjoy at Thanksgiving.

When did Thanksgiving become a national holiday?

Although Thanksgiving can be traced back to the 1600s, the national holiday has only been acknowledged formally since president Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving in 1863.

This was thanks to aforementioned editor Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, who campaigned for it to become a national day of thanks after learning of the 1621 harvest.

Following this, all presidents who succeeded Lincoln also announced an annual celebration, until in 1941 the Congress proclaimed it a national holiday.

The president at the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt formalised the fourth Thursday of November the official holiday, meaning the actual date of Thanksgiving celebrations changes every year.

When is Thanksgiving this year?

This year, Thanksgiving takes place on Thursday 26 November 2020.

Canadians also celebrate Thanksgiving, however this is on the second Monday of October.

How do Americans celebrate nowadays?

Although Thanksgiving has its roots in religious and cultural traditions, it’s a secular holiday, and people from all ethnicities and backgrounds participate in the national day of thanks.

As well as the food, Americans travel the length and breadth of the states to be with family. People travel for this national holiday more so than for Christmas, according to an AAA survey.

The holiday is not traditionally celebrated with personal gifts, as it is a time for gratitude and gratefulness.

Instead, guests who attend a hosted dinner may opt to bring a dish and save their gift giving for Christmas.

The annual Macy’s parade is also televised, with over 20 million viewers watching the three hour long parade and over 40 million tuning in at some point during the procession.

How will Covid restrictions impact celebrations this year?

Although Americans who live outside the states may struggle to return home for Thanksgiving, in general there are no federal laws which restrict movement from state to state.

However, states can decide on their own lockdown measures, social distancing and travel barriers so families may struggle to meet in the same numbers they usually would.

Fox News has drawn up a list of considerations for those hosting, with eating outside in warmer climates and restricting numbers just some of the ways Americans are being advised to celebrate.All is not lost, as the 94th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will air on NBC on Thursday, November 26 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST.

Thanksgiving is followed by Black Friday, when retailers launch huge pre-Christmas sales.