Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the United States celebrated in November. The annual feast is in honour of the “first” Thanksgivings in America, in 1619 in Virginia, and in 1621, when colonists in Plymouth, Massachusetts, later known as the Pilgrims, shared a meal with the Wampanoag Indians, who were native to the land. The later feast was in honour of the help the Pilgrims received from the Native Americans in cultivating crops and surviving their first harsh winter and it lasted three days. Later, US Presidents including George Washington, John Adams and James Madison called for days of thanks throughout their presidencies. However, it was not until 1863, during the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln declared a national Thanksgiving Day would be held each November to be celebrated by the country.

Thanksgiving takes place each year on the fourth Thursday of November. This year, Thanksgiving falls on November 22. Although Thanksgiving may originally have had religious significance, the day has become a mostly secular holiday. Most Americans consider the holiday a day to gather and express their thanks through food, family, and football – with multiple NFL teams playing on the holiday. During some Thanksgiving celebrations, people write down what they are thankful for and then read aloud from the pieces of paper. In schools, children learn about the holiday by colouring in pictures of Pilgrims and turkeys and the Mayflower, the ship the colonists arrived on. The day is also celebrated with the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. The world’s largest Thanksgiving parade includes giant balloons of cartoons that float above the city sky, as well as marching bands and dancers. Following Thanksgiving, the month-long shopping for the winter holidays begins, with Black Friday kicking off the season.

In America, turkeys are an integral part of Thanksgiving Day, with most dinners including the bird. An estimated 46m turkeys are killed annually for the holiday, however, one turkey is pardoned each year by the President. Americans also indulge in Thanksgiving favourites such as yams topped with marshmallows, stuffing, cranberry sauce, cornbread, and pumpkin pie. Credit: Chelsea Ritschel for Independent, 15 November 2018.