The holiday moved away from its religious roots to allow immigrants of every background to participate in a common tradition. Thanksgiving Day football games, beginning with Yale versus Princeton in , enabled fans to add some rowdiness to the holiday. In the late s parades of costumed revelers became common.
Days of thanksgiving in Canada also originated in the colonial period, arising from the same European traditions, in gratitude for safe journeys, peace, and bountiful harvests. The earliest celebration was held in , when an expedition led by Martin Frobisher held a ceremony in present-day Nunavut to give thanks for the safety of its fleet. In Parliament established a national Thanksgiving Day on November 6; the date has varied over the years. You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security. Thanksgiving Day.
Article Media. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Thanksgiving Day holiday. Written By: David J. See Article History. Britannica Demystified. Facts Matter. Start Your Free Trial Today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Traditionally held to have originated in the Plymouth Massachusetts colony in , it was first proclaimed a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in Ecumenical services, now worldwide, are observed during the Octave or Week of…. United States , country in North America, a federal republic of 50 states.
Besides the 48 conterminous states that occupy the middle latitudes of the continent, the United States includes the state of Alaska, at the northwestern extreme of North…. Canada , second largest country in the world in area after Russia , occupying roughly the northern two-fifths of the continent of North America.
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This fact,…. On the appointed day, they gave reverent thanks for their safety, for the health of their children, for the fertility of their fields, for the love which bound them together and for the faith which united them with their God. During the American Revolutionary War the Continental Congress appointed one or more thanksgiving days each year, each time recommending to the executives of the various states the observance of these days in their states.
The First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving was given by the Continental Congress in from its temporary location in York, Pennsylvania , while the British occupied the national capital at Philadelphia. Delegate Samuel Adams created the first draft.
How we Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving in Ireland
Congress then adapted the final version:. For as much as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased, in so great a Measure, to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops, and to crown our Arms with most signal success:.
And it is further recommended, That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion. George Washington , leader of the revolutionary forces in the American Revolutionary War, proclaimed a Thanksgiving in December as a victory celebration honoring the defeat of the British at Saratoga. The Continental-Confederation Congress , the legislative body that governed the United States from to , issued several "national days of prayer, humiliation, and thanksgiving",  a practice that was continued by presidents Washington and Adams under the Constitution, and has manifested itself in the established American observances of Thanksgiving and the National Day of Prayer today.
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Done in Congress at Philadelphia, the eleventh day of October, in the year of our LORD, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two, and of our Sovereignty and Independence, the seventh. On Thursday, September 24, , the first House of Representatives voted to recommend the First Amendment of the newly drafted Constitution to the states for ratification.
The next day, Congressman Elias Boudinot from New Jersey proposed that the House and Senate jointly request of President Washington to proclaim a day of thanksgiving for "the many signal favors of Almighty God". Boudinot said that he "could not think of letting the session pass over without offering an opportunity to all the citizens of the United States of joining, with one voice, in returning to Almighty God their sincere thanks for the many blessings he had poured down upon them. As President, on October 3, , George Washington made the following proclamation and created the first Thanksgiving Day designated by the national government of the United States of America:.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations especially such as have shown kindness unto us and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord.
To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best. President John Adams declared Thanksgivings in and As Thomas Jefferson was a deist and a skeptic of the idea of divine intervention , he did not declare any thanksgiving days during his presidency.
James Madison renewed the tradition in , in response to resolutions of Congress, at the close of the War of Caleb Strong, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts , declared the holiday in , "for a day of public thanksgiving and prayer" for Thursday, November 25 of that year.
Madison also declared the holiday twice in ; however, neither of these was celebrated in autumn. A thanksgiving day was annually appointed by the governor of New York from In the middle of the American Civil War , President Abraham Lincoln , prompted by a series of editorials written by Sarah Josepha Hale ,  proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the 26th, the final Thursday of November The document, written by Secretary of State William H.
Seward , reads as follows:. The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.
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Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things.
They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people.
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
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In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three , and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth. Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln , October 3, Since , Thanksgiving has been observed annually in the United States. The holiday superseded Evacuation Day , a de facto national holiday that had been held on November 25 each year prior to the Civil War and commemorated the British withdrawal from the United States after the American Revolution.
During the second half of the 19th century, Thanksgiving traditions in America varied from region to region. A traditional New England Thanksgiving, for example, consisted of a raffle held on Thanksgiving Eve in which the prizes were mainly geese or turkeys , a shooting match on Thanksgiving morning in which turkeys and chickens were used as targets , church services—and then the traditional feast, which consisted of some familiar Thanksgiving staples such as turkey and pumpkin pie, and some not-so-familiar dishes such as pigeon pie.
The earliest high school football rivalries took root in the late 19th century in Massachusetts, stemming from games played on Thanksgiving; professional football took root as a Thanksgiving staple during the sport's genesis in the s, and the tradition of Thanksgiving football both at the high school and professional level continues to this day. In New York City, people would dress up in fanciful masks and costumes and roam the streets in merry-making mobs.
By the beginning of the 20th century, these mobs had morphed [ citation needed ] into Ragamuffin parades consisting mostly of children dressed as "ragamuffins" in costumes of old and mismatched adult clothes and with deliberately smudged faces, but by the late s the tradition had diminished enough to only exist in its original form in a few communities around New York, with many of its traditions subsumed into the Halloween custom of trick-or-treating.
Abraham Lincoln's successors as president followed his example of annually declaring the final Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving. But in , President Franklin D. Roosevelt broke with this tradition. Although many popular histories state otherwise, he made clear that his plan was to establish the holiday on the next-to-last Thursday in the month instead of the last one. With the country still in the midst of The Great Depression , Roosevelt thought an earlier Thanksgiving would give merchants a longer period to sell goods before Christmas.
Increasing profits and spending during this period, Roosevelt hoped, would help bring the country out of the Depression. At the time, advertising goods for Christmas before Thanksgiving was considered inappropriate. Fred Lazarus, Jr. Republicans decried the change, calling it an affront to the memory of Lincoln. People began referring to November 30 as the "Republican Thanksgiving" and November 23 as the "Democratic Thanksgiving" or " Franksgiving ".
Since a presidential declaration of Thanksgiving Day was not legally binding, Roosevelt's change was widely disregarded. Twenty-three states went along with Roosevelt's recommendation, 22 did not, and some, like Texas , could not decide and took both days as government holidays. In and , years in which November had four Thursdays, Roosevelt declared the third one as Thanksgiving. As in , some states went along with the change while others retained the traditional last-Thursday date.
On October 6, , both houses of the U. Congress passed a joint resolution fixing the traditional last-Thursday date for the holiday beginning in However, in December of that year the Senate passed an amendment to the resolution that split the difference by requiring that Thanksgiving be observed annually on the fourth Thursday of November, which was usually the last Thursday and sometimes two years out of seven, on average the next to last.
For several years some states continued to observe the last-Thursday date in years with five November Thursdays the next such year being , with Texas doing so as late as The poor are often provided with food at Thanksgiving time. Most communities have annual food drives that collect non-perishable packaged and canned foods, and corporations sponsor charitable distributions of staple foods and Thanksgiving dinners. It is continued in modern times with the Thanksgiving dinner , traditionally featuring turkey, playing a central role in the celebration of Thanksgiving.
In the United States, certain kinds of food are traditionally served at Thanksgiving meals.
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