Thanksgiving, held on the fourth Thursday of November, is one of the most important annual celebrations in the United States. It is a day when family members come together to share a large meal – usually roast turkey with accompaniments such as mashed potato and cranberry sauce, and often pumpkin pie for dessert.
Good food is not the only reason Americans generally look forward to Thanksgiving. For many it is also the beginning of four days off work and school: the Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, is a public holiday and it is common to take the Friday off as well, making a long weekend.
It is generally said that Thanksgiving began in the seventeenth century with the arrival in North America of settlers from England. One of the first groups of settlers arrived in November 1620 on the ship the Mayflower, but many of them died from hunger or disease during the cold winter that followed. In the spring, Native Americans in the area helped the surviving settlers by showing them how to fish and grow maize. In November 1621, on the first anniversary of their arrival, the settlers had a feast to thank God for their survival, and invited some of the Native Americans. This was the event many people think of as the very first ‘thanks-giving’ meal.
For more than 200 years, different parts of the United States held Thanksgiving at different times: it was only in 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln said it should take place on the last Thursday in November. In 1941 Congress decided that Thanksgiving should be on the fourth Thursday in November (usually still the last Thursday, except for in those years when there are five Thursdays in the month).
adapted from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77hFFKFOqmM
A peculiar event connected with Thanksgiving has been taking place since the 1980s. It is a public ceremony, shown on TV, in which the President of the United States ‘pardons’ a turkey. This means the turkey will not be killed for Thanksgiving, or at any other time, but will instead live comfortably on a farm, zoo, etc. For Thanksgiving in 2009, his first as President, Barack Obama pardoned a turkey called Courage and told it that it would be going to live in Disneyland in California. He made people laugh by saying there were moments in his job that made him realise why he had wanted it so much – but talking to a bird probably wasn’t one of them.