Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated on varied dates of the year in the United States and Canada celebrating the harvest and other blessings of the past year.
Americans generally believe that their Thanksgiving is modelled on a 1621 harvest feast shared by the English colonists (Pilgrims) of Plymouth and the Wampanoag people.
The Pilgrims travelled from Europe to the New World, a continent they had never known before, in hopes of creating a community free to worship God away from the strict rules of their old government. For many hard months they journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean enduring vicious storms, sickness, food shortages, and feelings of increasing hopelessness. Many did not survive.
When the Pilgrims finally arrived in America, their supplies were almost completely gone and the settlers were weak and ill. They had no experience of how to survive in an environment so different from the one they had left behind. Their hopes of building a community in a New World seemed almost impossible when they realized they were so unprepared for their new life.
Through what many saw as God’s will, there was a group of native people living nearby. These kind Native Americans taught the European settlers how to build their homes and plant crops for food. Their friendship saved the lives of the new settlers and they were the answer to all of the Pilgrims’ prayers.
At the end of the first harvest, the Pilgrims invited the Native Americans to celebrate all of God’s provision. For three days, the two groups feasted together, celebrating their partnership and the many blessings they had been given.
This American holiday is particularly rich in legend and symbolism, and the traditional fare of the Thanksgiving meal typically includes turkey, bread stuffing, potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. The holiday is often the busiest of the year, as family members gather together.
This year, Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on Thursday, November 25.