Thanksgiving is one-of-its-kind festival that brings along the spirit of celebration. Celebrated around the world, Thanksgiving Day mainly includes three activities: enjoying quality time with family, watching football games, and eating a delightful meal of turkey. Thanksgiving is a mix of facts as well as myths. However, from its origin, it has changed the way we celebrate it today. It is celebrated in various countries in different ways but the objective behind the festival is similar; expressing gratitude. It brings along the perfect opportunity to celebrate the bounty of Mother Nature that transcends borders as well as cultures across the world. Though they all had the same ideas, still thanksgiving traditions in different corners of the world bring together unique ceremonies. It’s a joyful experience to learn about the different stories that serve as a reason to inspire the merrymaking to the thanksgiving dinner table.
Let’s have a look how it is Thanksgiving celebrated is various countries.
Thanksgiving in United Kingdom- Blessing of the Harvest
Known as the ‘Harvest Festival', thanksgiving is the oldest festival in United Kingdom. It started in churches in 1843 when Robert Hawker requested local parishioners for a special thanksgiving service at a church. It led to a custom of adorning churches with home-grown products. In ancient times, the success of crops used to determine the success or failure. The natives of UK, delighted the God of fertility by offering the first sheaf of corn. It was done to assure a good harvest in the new season. The ritual of offering an animal sacrifice is also coupled with the cutting of last sheaf of corn. It is believed that the last sheaf of corn consists of its spirit. "Corn dolls" are especially made to represent Goddess of grain.
As part of the festivity, the Community is invited to enjoy a celebratory dinner. It is conducted every year in September on Sunday approaching the harvest moon. However, the festival is not announced as a national holiday in UK. The celebrations did continue till date in most of the rural communities. Children enjoy singing hymns, and start gifting fruits and vegetables. Further, distribution of fruits and vegetables can also be observed in local communities.
Both Canada and the US hold Thanksgiving as a remarkable national holiday, occurring in the autumn. In both countries, people see this time as an opportunity to spend time with family and enjoy a meal together. Despite the similarities, there are few distinctions between how Canadians and Americans look at the festival and celebrate their versions of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving in Canada- Embracing the Festivity
Canadian Thanksgiving or “Action de Grace” is a festival full of celebration fervor. Celebrated on the second Monday of October, it is a day dedicated to show gratitude to Almighty God for abundant harvest. The origin stems from an amalgamation of events that date back to 1578. It was the time when wanderer Martin Frobisher along with his crew organized a feast to express gratefulness for their safe journey from an Arctic travel. After that, French settlers also reached and conducted feasts with their native people.
During the American Revolution, many Loyalists shifted to Canada and carried their traditions with them which included turkey and pumpkins. It indicates the way Canadian and American Thanksgiving share a host of traditions. These include spending time with family, taking a long weekend break, watching football games and of course, feasting on delectable delicacies. Thanksgiving also brings along the perfect opportunity to enjoy a road trip with family. The thanksgiving celebrations consist of parades, customary feast and family reunions. The main idea behind the festivity is to be grateful for the past harvest and start praying for the following year.
Many people take a day off work on Monday to make the most of three-day Thanksgiving weekend to visit their family and friends who stay far away or to welcome them in their own homes. People also cook a special meal to enjoy during the long weekend. Traditionally, it consists of roast turkey and seasonal produce like pumpkin, pecan nuts and corn ears. The meal may include other type of foods especially if the family is associated with a non-European descent.
The Thanksgiving weekend lets people enjoy a short autumn vacation. This may be observed as a last chance for people to use their cottages or holiday homes before winter actually arrives. Other popular activities include hiking, fishing on a short outdoor breaks. People also enjoy the Canadian Football League to spend part of weekend watching matches.
Thanksgiving in the United States- Time of Merry-Making
Looking at first glance, thanksgiving in the United States is pretty similar to the Canadian holiday but with a different date. People of USA celebrate it on the fourth Thursday in November. It kicks off a long weekend of four days. To enjoy the holiday, friends and family come together. While enjoying each other’s company, they also eat a plate full of pumpkin pie and turkey. This is the time when they also share about what they are thankful for.
American Thanksgiving stated at the landing of the Mayflower in the year 1620. Once they were sailing across the Atlantic, the pilgrims from England hardly managed travelling in the early months in the New World. But they were successful soon with the support of Native Americans. So, they invited the Native Americans for meal at the end of the first successful harvest. This way, they had a meal together as a gesture of thanks. The holiday was observed rarely over the following centuries till 1863. Then President Abraham Lincoln announced a national Thanksgiving Day to be conducted every November. Here’s how the celebration started in the U.S for Thanksgiving.
Celebrated with lots of fervor America, it bring along a perfect opportunity for communal thanksgiving and lavish feasts. This festivity time lets everyone enjoy family meals and reunions in America. Pumpkin Pie, Carved turkeys, Cranberry Sauce and Corns are the traditional celebration dishes that are served on the dinner tables in each house. The day perfectly epitomizes the holiday spirit of people. It is also a good time to buy gifts for your family and friends. One can express his gratitude and respect to elders, siblings, friends and even colleagues. Popular gifts for this day encompass thanksgiving flowers, baked cookie hampers, jewelry, chocolate gift baskets, wine and candy-wreaths.
It also marks the official beginning of the Christmas season. USA observes maximum sales on the very next day. The next Friday after the festival is referred to as ‘Black Friday’. Standard accounting practice of writing profits in black is followed. The ongoing festive spirit assists shopkeepers to make more profits. The entire atmosphere is full of festivity and people get in perfect holiday mood.
10 Interesting Facts about Thanksgiving
While thanksgiving is all about making merry and enjoy time with family and friends, it is good to learn about few facts about the festival that add more fun to your gala time. Here are few interesting facts that are worth sharing around the dinner tables.
- The first Thanksgiving was originally celebrated in 1621. It was a three day long harvest festival that had 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians. Historians believe that only five women were present during the celebration.
- A must thanksgiving dish today, Turkey wasn’t actually on the menu at the first ever Thanksgiving celebration. Venison, goose, duck, lobster, fish, eel, and oysters were served alongside pumpkins and cranberries.
- Abraham Lincoln officially declared Thanksgiving a national holiday on October 3, 1863. Sarah Josepha Hale, the writer of “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” somehow managed to convince Lincoln to make it a national holiday after writing letters for 17 long years.
- Ever wondered that there are four towns in the USA named as ‘Turkey’. They can be found in Texas, Louisiana, Arizona and North Carolina.
- You would be surprised to know that the average number of calories that are consumed on Thanksgiving is 4,500.
- Is not it interesting to know that butterball answers as many as 100,000 turkey-cooking questions through their Butterball Turkey Hotline every November and December?
- The tradition of football on this day actually started in 1876 with a game conducted between Yale and Princeton. The first NFL games were originally played on Thanksgiving in the year 1920.
- You may wonder to know that more than 54 million Americans travel during the Thanksgiving holiday. It is surprising to learn the increasing flow of people on each festival. However, nobody wants to miss spending time with family during this special time.
- There were Central Park Zoo animals on the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade that marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. The first parade had monkeys, camels, bears and elephants rather than traditional character balloons that we see today.
- Do you know that today’s most popular Christmas anthem ‘Jingle Bells’ was once a Thanksgiving Day song? It became so popular around December and since then it is being known as a Christmas day song.