Episode 11 (formerly 1511): Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is probably the biggest holiday in America, except maybe for Christmas. Thanksgiving is on the fourth Thursday in November every year. It is a federal holiday designated as a day of gratitude and thankfulness.

The history of Thanksgiving started long before the USA was born. In 1620, a group of people left England on a small ship called the Mayflower. These people are now called the Pilgrims, and they established the first permanent European settlement in the New England area.

Conditions for the Pilgrims were bad. The voyage across the ocean took 66 days, and they landed in what is now Massachusetts in the winter. The weather was harsh and they had little food and much disease. Half of the settlers died before spring.

A Native American named Squanto helped them throughout the next year. Squanto spoke English because he had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and had spent some time in England before escaping back home. Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to grow and hunt food. He helped them make friends of the local Native American tribe as well.

At the end of the first year, the Pilgrims had a celebration of gratitude for the successful year they had just had. They invited the local Native Americans to be part of the celebration. This is considered to be the first Thanksgiving, although the Pilgrims didn’t call it that at the time.

Although many colonies and, later, states celebrated an annual day of thankfulness, it wasn’t until 1863 that Thanksgiving became a federal holiday. It was proclaimed an official holiday by Abraham Lincoln and has been celebrated nationwide ever since.

Today, Thanksgiving is a family-centric holiday. It is expected that people spend the holiday with their families. On Thanksgiving morning, Macy’s department store in New York City holds a Thanksgiving Day Parade every year; you can see it on television. The parade consists of, among other things, marching bands from schools all over the country and giant balloons in the shape of popular cartoon and video game characters and superheroes.

On Thanksgiving, a big dinner is prepared and shared by the family. The traditional food is turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie, although families have other traditional dishes as well. People are expected to eat a lot at this meal. It is common to have lots of leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner, too. In fact, jokes are told that people eat turkey sandwiches, turkey salad and turkey soup for days after Thanksgiving.

After dinner, when everyone should be helping to clean up after the meal, most people go to the living room and watch football games on television. Many of them fall asleep on the couch.

Most people take off Thursday through Sunday and enjoy a four-day weekend on Thanksgiving. The weekend is generally thought of as the beginning of the Christmas season. The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday, which is the biggest retail shopping day of the year. Many sales and specials abound, and stores open early and close late that day.

Thanksgiving is the most important secular, that is, non-religious, holiday in the US. Generally, people think about everything in life they are thankful for on Thanksgiving while enjoying family, good food, time off and television sports on the weekend.

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2 thoughts on “Episode 11 (formerly 1511): Thanksgiving

  1. Pingback: US Federal Holidays – Slow American English

  2. I think it’s important to include “revisionist” information — mainly that typically, the native American perspective is absent in traditional descriptions of the holiday. I’ve read that some American Indians treat Thanksgiving as a fast day vs. a feast day.

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