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History of Thanksgiving: A Simple Guide

By Saumya | Last Updated on November 25th, 2023 1:01 pm

Thanksgiving is a big and important day for lots of people in the United States. Imagine a calendar; find the month of November, and then look for the fourth Thursday. That's when Thanksgiving happens every year. It's a day when people pause to say "thank you" for all the good things they have and to remember the good times from the last year.

Now, let's walk through the history of Thanksgiving in an easy-to-understand way. The Thanksgiving history began with an adventurous trip across the ocean. A long time ago, some people from England, called Pilgrims, traveled to North America on a ship because they wanted to live in a place where they could follow their own religion freely. It was a really difficult journey, but they finally arrived in a new land. In 2023, Thanksgiving in the United States will be celebrated on Thursday, November 23rd. This holiday is always observed on the fourth Thursday of November.

When the Pilgrims first got to what is now known as Massachusetts, the winter was very hard. They didn't know how to grow food in this new place, and it was much colder than where they came from. But then, something amazing happened. The Native Americans living there showed the Pilgrims how to plant corn and catch fish. This friendship was a big deal, and it helped the Pilgrims a lot.

Because of this help, the Pilgrims had a big harvest, which means they grew a lot of food. They were so happy and thankful that they decided to have a feast. This is the real history of Thanksgiving. They invited their Native American friends, and together, they had a huge meal that lasted for three whole days!

In this short history of Thanksgiving, it's important to talk about the food. At that first Thanksgiving, they didn't have pumpkin pies or mashed potatoes. They ate what they had, like deer meat, corn they grew themselves, and seafood they caught in the rivers and seas.

As time went on, days to say thank you, or days of Thanksgiving, were celebrated in different places at different times. It wasn't until a big war in America, called the Civil War, that a president named Abraham Lincoln said, "Let's all give thanks on the same day," and he picked the last Thursday in November.

But what about the history of Thanksgiving food we know today, like turkey and cranberry sauce? Well, that came much later. As Thanksgiving became a national holiday, these foods became a tradition, and now, it's hard to imagine the holiday without them!

Even now, many years later, Thanksgiving is still about getting together with family and friends, eating yummy food, and being thankful. Some people also give their time to help others on this day. So, the history of Thanksgiving is not just about a single meal a long time ago, but about how being thankful and kind became a part of how people live in the United States. Create beautiful Thanksgiving display ads, heartfelt Thanksgiving cards, and festive Thanksgiving posters to share the spirit of the holiday using Appy Pie's AI-design tool.

The Beginning of Thanksgiving

The tale of Thanksgiving is not just about a festive meal; it actually starts with quite a challenging period in history. This dark history of Thanksgiving begins in the 1600s. A bunch of English folks, known to us as the Pilgrims, got on a big boat named the Mayflower. They wanted to find a new place to live where they could practice their own religion peacefully.

After they left England, they sailed for a very long time across the big, vast ocean to reach North America. They were hoping to find freedom and a new home. In the year 1620, they finally landed. They set foot on land in a spot we now call Plymouth, which is in present-day Massachusetts.

When we think about the history of Thanksgiving, it's important to remember that the Pilgrims faced a lot of trouble when they first arrived. The winter in this new land was brutal for them. It was colder than they were used to back home, and food was really hard to come by. Unfortunately, because it was so cold and food was scarce, many of the Pilgrims got very sick, and some didn't survive.

The history of Thanksgiving holiday is closely tied to these early struggles. It was after the Pilgrims managed to survive this difficult first winter, with the help of the Native Americans, that they had their first Thanksgiving.

If you're wondering what is the history of Thanksgiving and how it relates to Canada, it's interesting to note that while Canada does celebrate Thanksgiving, it has its own history and timeline. Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October and has different historical roots, often linked to English explorer Martin Frobisher's celebrations of safe travels in 1578, long before the Pilgrims' feast.

But the story of Thanksgiving in both countries is a reflection on the themes of survival, gratitude, and the harvest. So, the history of Thanksgiving in Canada and the United States, while distinct from each other, both serve as reminders of overcoming adversity and celebrating the blessings of the harvest.

History of Thanksgiving in America

When we dig into the true history of Thanksgiving, we find a story of survival and alliance. As spring warmed the land in the new world, the Pilgrims, those English settlers, found friendship with the Native Americans who were already living there. Among these Native Americans was a man named Squanto. Squanto was special because he spoke English, which he had learned from earlier English explorers. He showed the Pilgrims vital skills, like how to plant and grow corn, which was a new kind of food for them. He also taught them how to fish and find other foods to help them live in their new surroundings.

Thanks to Squanto and the other Native Americans, the Pilgrims were able to grow enough food to last through the winter. They had what we call a "successful harvest" in the fall of 1621. This means they gathered enough crops to keep them fed and healthy.

Feeling grateful for their good harvest, the Pilgrims decided to have a big celebration. They wanted to give thanks for all the help they'd received and for the food they'd been able to grow. So, they set up a feast and invited their Native American allies to join in. This three-day event is what many consider the real history of Thanksgiving. They didn't just have one meal; they celebrated for three whole days, enjoying venison, which is meat from a deer, as well as corn, various shellfish, and other roasted meats.

This gathering is viewed as the first Thanksgiving, marking the history of Thanksgiving Day. It's the foundation of the holiday that we now celebrate every year in the United States. However, this origin story is different from the history of Canadian Thanksgiving, which has its own unique roots. While American Thanksgiving has its origins in this 1621 feast, Canadian Thanksgiving is often associated with the earlier traditions of European harvest festivals and also has connections to the explorations of Martin Frobisher.

Over the centuries, Thanksgiving has grown and evolved. In the United States, it became an official holiday much later, cementing the history of Thanksgiving Day as a time for giving thanks for the many blessings, especially following the harvest season. Meanwhile, Canadian Thanksgiving, celebrated on the second Monday in October, also centers on giving thanks for the harvest and other blessings of the past year. Despite these differences, the core spirit of both celebrations is gratitude, which is a significant part of what is the history of Thanksgiving in North America.

History of Thanksgiving in Canada

The history of Thanksgiving in Canada is unique. It dates back to 1578 when explorer Martin Frobisher gave thanks for his safe arrival in what’s now Newfoundland. This event is considered the first Canadian Thanksgiving. Unlike the American tradition, it's not directly linked to harvests with the Native Americans. Nowadays, Canadian families celebrate with a meal that often includes turkey and pumpkin pie. Kids learn about this history in fun ways, like through a history of Thanksgiving quiz or stories about the first Thanksgiving. Interestingly, Canada doesn't have a history of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade; that's a festive American event with giant balloons and floats held on American Thanksgiving.

History of Thanksgiving Turkey

The true history of Thanksgiving turkey as a dinner centerpiece is not as old as the holiday itself. In the early celebrations, meals varied, but over time, turkey became the star of Thanksgiving dinner in the United States. This shift is captured by Read Theory texts, which explore how turkey turned into a tradition. The real story of Thanksgiving, as shown by the History Channel, tells us that turkey was affordable, big enough to feed a crowd, and didn't require farmers to sacrifice a milk-producing cow or egg-laying chicken. This made turkey a practical choice for an annual feast celebrating gratitude and community.

History of Thanksgiving in the Bible

The history of Thanksgiving in the Bible doesn't directly relate to the American holiday. Thanksgiving in the USA has its roots in colonial times, separate from biblical events. The dark history of Thanksgiving touches on conflicts and struggles between the Pilgrims and Native Americans, not biblical narratives. Celebrations like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and traditional foods like cranberry sauce developed much later as part of the evolving history of Thanksgiving activities. The Bible does, however, mention giving thanks, and these principles have echoed through time, influencing the spirit of gratitude that Thanksgiving promotes today.

Thanksgiving Becomes a Holiday

For many years after that first feast, various days of thanksgiving were marked by different colonies and states, and they weren't the same unified holiday across the United States as depicted in the occasional humorous history of Thanksgiving meme. The true national celebration didn't begin until the Civil War era. In 1863, in an effort to unify the nation, President Abraham Lincoln declared an official day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens," setting it on the last Thursday of November.

Since Lincoln's time, Thanksgiving has been an annual tradition in the United States. Notably, the event has also become synonymous with the history of Thanksgiving parades, like the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which started in 1924, becoming an integral part of the holiday's identity. In fact, the history of Thanksgiving Day parades has become almost as rich as the holiday itself.

In terms of the date, a small tweak was made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt who, in 1939, moved the holiday up a week to the fourth Thursday in November. This decision was made to extend the shopping period before Christmas, hoping to boost the economy during the Great Depression.

While Thanksgiving in Canada, with its own history of Thanksgiving foods and traditions, is celebrated on the second Monday in October, the sentiment of gratitude and celebration after the harvest is a shared theme in North America. From the variety of dishes that have become staples at the dinner table, the history of Thanksgiving foods is a testament to the evolving nature of this holiday.

Thanksgiving Today

Today, Thanksgiving is a moment when loved ones gather for a hearty meal, a tradition encapsulating a brief history of Thanksgiving celebrations that have evolved over the centuries. The menu typically features turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, though various families might add their unique dishes, reflecting the diversity in the history of Thanksgiving foods. While people savor watching football, enjoying parades, and even starting their Christmas shopping, the day is also a profound time for reflection.

There's a darker aspect as well, often highlighted in discussions about the history of Thanksgiving indigenous relations, which acknowledges the complex and painful interactions between Native Americans and European settlers. Recognizing the dark history of Thanksgiving in America is part of understanding the full context of the holiday.

In the spirit of the day, many extend Thanksgiving wishes to friends and family, sometimes sharing festive history of Thanksgiving GIFs on social media to spread cheer and gratitude. Moreover, Thanksgiving encourages us to not only count our blessings but also to act on our thankfulness through volunteering and supporting those in need, making the holiday's meaning richer and more inclusive.


La historia de Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving history, is a tale of endurance, camaraderie, and thankfulness. Originally, it started with a modest feast to rejoice over a bountiful harvest and has evolved into a day when we emphasize the significance of expressing gratitude and cherishing time with family and friends. The history of Thanksgiving for kids is often taught to highlight these values — that no matter how one celebrates, the essence of Thanksgiving is about fostering community, showing generosity, and appreciating the playfulness of the previous year.

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