Thanksgiving in the USA: History and Traditions

Celebrating Thanksgiving in the USA – a brief history behind the holiday and fun traditions.

Thanksgiving is a time associated with seeing family, eating turkey, and watching football. But there is more to the holiday and the ‘First Thanksgiving’ that you might not know!

In the fall of 1620, a small ship carrying 102 passengers left Plymouth, England on its way to the New World. The journey lasted 66 days, which means the Pilgrims landed in America about 157 years before the adoption of the original US flag with 13-stars.

After the Pilgrim’s first successful corn harvest in November 1621, the governor William Bradford organized a feast to celebrate. Everyone was invited to the meal, which is known today as the ‘First Thanksgiving.’ The festivities last for three days and nights.

Thanksgiving Parade Light Up American Flag

How did Thanksgiving become an official holiday in the United States? It wasn’t until 1817 that New York became one of the first states to officially adopt Thanksgiving as an annual holiday. Many other states followed suit but all celebrated on different days. Then, in 1863 during the American Revolution, President Lincoln proclaimed national Thanksgiving Day shall be held every November.

How is Thanksgiving celebrated now compared to the ‘First Thanksgiving?’ Today, the holiday centers more around eating a large feast with friends and family (and watching football). Even the foods have greatly changed. Today, nearly 90% of American’s eat turkey as part of their Thanksgiving meal.

Thanksgiving Parade American Character Balloon

Also, just like on Veteran’s Day and Fourth of July, parades have become a regular Thanksgiving Day tradition. The grand Macy’s Thanksgiving parade also happens in New York City, where the Veteran’s Day parade just occurred less than three weeks ago.

More than two million Americans line the parade route, with even more tuning in to watch the spectacle on TV. Giant balloon characters are always a common sight, along with American flags and tributes to the stars and stripes.

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving Day?


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