When Was the First Thanksgiving Day Observed?
Thanksgiving Day is an annual national holiday which takes place in the United States and Canada on the fourth Thursday in November in celebration of the harvest and other blessings during the year. Together with Christmas and the New Year, Thanksgiving is a part of the broader fall/winter holiday season in the U.S.
The first Thanksgiving Day was observed when the Pilgrim Fathers held a three-day festival after the harvest of 1621. But the day was not celebrated as a regular national holiday until more than two centuries later.
Gradually each state adopted the idea until, in 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed a national harvest festival on November 26. Since being fixed on the fourth Thursday in November by law in 1941, the holiday in the United States can occur on any date from November 22 to 28. When it falls on November 22 or 23, it is not the last Thursday, but the penultimate Thursday in November. Regardless, it is the Thursday proceeding the last Saturday of November.
Because Thanksgiving is a federal holiday, all United States government offices are closed and all employees are paid for that day. It is also a holiday for the New York Stock Exchange and most other financial markets and financial services companies. The festival is still basically a home celebration, with religious overtones, for families and friends. Turkey is the traditional meat at the feast, and such autumnal dishes as pumpkin pie and plum pudding stress the harvest theme.
The day after Thanksgiving is a holiday for some companies and most schools. In the last two decades of the 20th century, it became known as Black Friday, the beginning of the Christmas shopping season and a day for chaotic, early-morning sales at major retailers that were closed on Thanksgiving. A contrasting movement known as Buy Nothing Day orginated in Canada in 1992. The day after Thanksgiving is also Native American Heritage Day, a day to pay tribute to Native Americans for their many contributions to the United States.
Small Business Saturday, a movement promoting shopping at smaller local establishments, takes place on the last Saturday in November, two days after Thanksgiving. Cyber Monday is a nickname given to the Monday following Thanksgiving; the day evolved in the early days of the Internet, when consumers returning to work took advantage of their employers’ broadband Internet connections to do online shopping and retailers began offering sales to meet the demand. Giving Tuesday takes place on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.