What is Thanksgiving and is the holiday only celebrated in the US?

Before Christmas, Thanksgiving takes centre stage in the United States

Thanksgiving dinner (Jasmin777 from Pixabay)Thanksgiving dinner (Jasmin777 from Pixabay)
Thanksgiving dinner (Jasmin777 from Pixabay)

Now Halloween is well and truly in the past, all attention in the UK is turning to Christmas which is only a matter of weeks away. But across the pond in the US, the holiday season means Thanksgiving comes first.

The annual holiday takes place on the fourth Thursday in November - this year that is November 23 - and sees families come together for a meal not too dissimilar to an English Christmas dinner as a turkey takes pride of place at the dinner table. However, the Americans tend to prefer theirs deep-fried instead of roasted

But as the holiday is not one most Brits add to their calendar, you may be wondering what on earth is it all about and who exactly chooses to mark the occasion. NationaWorld has you covered here.

What is Thanksgiving?

The origins of Thanksgiving date back to 1621, according to most Americans, when a harvest feast was shared by the English colonists (or Pilgrims) of Plymouth and the Native American Wampanoag people.

The story goes that Plymouth’s Thanksgiving began when colonists went out to find birds for dinner, possibly for turkeys but more probably for the easier prey of geese and ducks. After this, 90 or so Wampanoag made a surprise appearance at the settlement’s gate, and miraculously the two groups socialized without incident.

The Wampanoag contributed venison to the feast, and since Plymouth had few buildings and manufactured goods, most people ate outside while sitting on the ground or on barrels with plates on their laps. It was hardly a formal affair, but it sealed a treaty between the two groups that lasted until King Philip’s War (1675–76), in which hundreds of colonists and thousands of Native Americans died.

The U.S. Congress proclaimed a national Thanksgiving upon the enactment of the Constitution. Yet, after 1798, the new Congress left Thanksgiving declarations to the states but some disagreed with the national government’s involvement in a religious event.

Thanksgiving did not become an official holiday until Northerners dominated the federal government. On October 3, 1863, during the Civil War, President Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26. The aim of the day is to celebrate harvest and your blessings from the previous year. A traditional Thanksgiving meal typically includes turkey, bread stuffing, potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie.

Which countries celebrate Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is mainly celebrated in North America in the US and Canada - but it isn't confined to here. Other nations that also celebrate the day include Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia, while it is also marked unofficially in Brazil and the Philippines.

Uniquely, it is also celebrated in the Dutch town of Leiden as from 1609 to 1620, many of the Pilgrims who came to America lived in the Netherlands. It is also marked

It is also marked in the Australian territory of Norfolk Island - a legacy of American whaling ships that would make frequent stops to the island during the late 1800s

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.