In the USA this is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, making a  long weekend through to Monday. It is one of America’s most important holidays, and a time when families reunite for a big Thanksgiving dinner (some families spend days preparing the big event).

Thanksgiving became a national holiday due to the author of the nursery rhyme ‘Mary had a little lamb’, Sarah Josepha Hale, who began her campaign in 1846. George Washington had proclaimed a national Thanksgiving day to honour the new Constitution, and Hale proposed calling it Union Thanksgiving, as she hoped the states would thus be brought into closer union. She won the support of Lincoln, who chose 6 August as the date, though the following year Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national holiday on the last Thursday of November. But Roosevelt felt that it was a bit too close to Chirstmas, so in 1939 Thanksgiving was held on the third Thursday. Finally, in 1941, a joint resolution in Congress established it once and for all on the fouth Thursday.

Do you know what the origins of this festival are? Continue reading if you want to find out:

In 1620 a group of English people who were unhappy with the way the Church of England was organised set sail from Plymouth on a ship called the Mayflower. They wanted to find a new church in America. After six weeks at sea, the Pilgrims landed at what is now Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. They had a hard winter and nearly half of them died. But the local Indians provided seeds for the corn, which the Europeans had never seen before. They also helped the English settlers to hunt and fish.

Fortunately the first year’s harvest was good. The Pilgrims wanted to thank both God and the Indians. So the governor declared a feast and invited the Indians to join in. About ninety Indians brought along fish, deer meat, turkey and pumpkin. The Indians tought the Pilgrims how to crush corn and make it into hot corn-meal bread. They feasted with the English settlers for three days.

The next year no Thanksgiving celebrations were held, and it didn’t become an annual event until the 1780s and it was made a national holiday in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln as explained above.

(Source: The Book of Days. Cambridge University Press)

Happy Thanksgiving to all Americans!!


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