Occasions 365

Thanksgiving

A feast at the end of harvest season

Thanksgiving Day is a very special time for most families. Sure, they look forward to the typical Thanksgiving traditions, but it is much more than that, too. Food and family are the cornerstones of Thanksgiving, and are just the things we should be thankful for.

Thanksgiving History

Thanksgiving Day is a primarily a celebration of the harvest, giving thanks for successful crops. Cultures around the world have similar holidays, and here in North America, the Native Americans were observing this feast for centuries before the arrival of the Europeans. Traditionally, however, we refer to a particular meal in 1621 as the first Thanksgiving. Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians sat down together to an autumn feast of venison and wild fowl. This meal is remembered as a celebration not only of the harvest, but of the friendship and cooperation between the natives and the settlers.

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving holiday traditions generally include preparing meals days in advance with multiple dishes that may only be prepared at that special time of the year. The best dishes are brought out, along with the best linens. For many people, Thanksgiving represents turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, and they look forward to these traditional Thanksgiving recipes all year long.

Many people also decorate their homes with traditional signs of fall, such as the cornucopia, gourds and autumn leaves. The cornucopia, or horn of plenty, is a representation of a hollow goat's horn, overflowing with fruit and other produce. It is a symbol of abundance that dates back to Greek mythology, but in North America it is usually considered a Thanksgiving decoration. Families with children will inevitably find their homes adorned with turkey-themed Thanksgiving crafts.

Thanksgiving cards and gifts tend to reflect these same themes. If you are invited to a Thanksgiving meal in someone's home, consider bringing a hostess gift of an autumn-themed floral arrangement or centerpiece. Another nice idea is a gift basket of fresh fruits, gourmet preserves or local wines.

Thanksgiving is a time of prayer for many families, and also a time when they may reach out to someone less fortunate than they are. Volunteering at a local shelter or donating food to a food bank are two popular ways to give back to the community and help ensure that everyone has a happy Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Trivia

  • Thanksgiving in the United States falls on the last Thursday in November.
  • Congress declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1941.
  • 88 percent of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving.
  • Americans consume about 46 million turkeys every Thanksgiving.
  • 3 million people attend the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade annually, and 44 million watch it on TV.
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