A bit of a history:
Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States, giving thanks for the harvest. Thanksgiving is always on the fourth Thursday of November, which is the 23rd November this year. Canada also have a similar holiday but theirs in the second Monday in October. Thanksgiving has historical roots in cultural and religious traditions. This day marks the start of the holiday season in America.
Since the 19th Century, thanksgiving was observed on the final Thursday of November, however not all states observed it. It wasn’t until Abraham Lincoln called for the day to be celebrated everywhere in 1863 that it became a national event, rather than various states. Due to the Civil War between the North and South, it wasn’t officially recognised across all of America until the 1870s. In 1940 Franklin D Roosevelt decided to change the date from the last Thursday of November to the fourth Thursday of November, in the hope to boost the economy.
Although Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season, some do think it is as important as Christmas. It’s not just a warm up for the main event. Turkey is also a major part of thanksgiving, traditionally it is normally the meat of choice for your meal. It is estimated that 50 million turkeys each year are used in thanksgiving meals across the country. Each year the President pardons a turkey, sparing them from the oven. This has happened since 1987 with all presidents participating in pardoning 1 turkey a year.
A stressful holiday
I’ve never participated in Thanksgiving, but every single US TV show portrays a Thanksgiving Day and meal. Oh, my days it looks stressful! To a Brit, it looks a lot like our Christmas Day dinner. There’s a massive turkey and a whole host of vegetables, herb dishes and desserts (albeit their desserts are normally pumpkin related as it’s for the harvest celebration). It is estimate that the average American will consume 3500 calories on Thanksgiving! After watching 10 years of Thanksgiving meals in Friends, I can agree that sounds correct! I’m not sure whether the TV shows are accurate or not, but it looks like people try and hunt for turkeys on Thanksgiving itself! That would be like us Brits hunting on Christmas Eve! Chances are you are getting an expensive, more than likely small chicken!
Table decorations seem to be important as well. Thanksgiving is a way to get the family together so having a beautiful centrepiece is vital, and stressful.
Macy’s parade – The parade started in the 1920’s and has been a tradition ever since. The parade is a huge event in New York City, complete with cheerleaders, huge balloons, marching bands and floats. The parade is normally seen on most New York based films and TV shows, notably Friends and Miracle on 34th Street.
Now this is something we are now all aware of. Black Friday. This happens the following day after Thanksgiving. In America, shoppers flock to the stores to get some heavily discounted bargains ready for the Christmas period to commence. Over here, our Christmas shopping period starts earlier, but Black Friday and the subsequent Cyber Monday have travelled over the pond to us. 5 years ago, the Black Friday discounts came over through Asda (Walmart in USA). Not long afterwards, UK retailers such as John Lewis, Marks and Spencer and Debenhams joined in.
In all the carnage you see in America, we queue up for hours and fight our way through to the best bargains, even if that means buying a 40-inch TV you really didn’t need, but it was 50% off. This now means in order to make a sale during what is now Black Friday week, most stores need to be offering competitive rates on items.
There are estimated to be a few hundred thousand Americans living over here, obviously celebrating their national holiday. It’s becoming more and more popular for restaurants to offer a Thanksgiving meal, especially if the chain has roots in America. University catering all offers Thanksgiving meals as a way to help American students studying in the UK feel at home. Although its not just for Americans. Go to the Swansea Uni campus and find students from all over the world enjoying an American tradition!