Thanksgiving is celebrated annually in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November. For many, Thanksgiving is about spending time with family members and friends and being thankful for the people and things in their life. It is typically celebrated by having a big meal with a turkey as the centerpiece. Watching the Thanksgiving Day parade, football, volunteering, and playing games are also ways to celebrate Thanksgiving.
What are we celebrating?
Thanksgiving is a popular American holiday, which is celebrated every year. It is primarily associated with the United States, where it occurs on the fourth Thursday in November, forms an important part of the country’s culture, and marks the beginning of the holiday season, which also includes Christmas and New Year.
But what’s Thanksgiving all about? Despite originating as a harvest festival, Thanksgiving is now celebrated more generally as a day for giving thanks for perceived blessings.
Thanksgiving is a celebration of the close family and friends in our lives and the fall harvest. At its heart, the holiday holds a deep sense of gratitude. It is as it sounds, a day to “give thanks.”
The history of Thanksgiving
While there is no complete historical consensus on when or where America’s first Thanksgiving meal took place, the holiday celebration is most cited to have originated in 1621 in what Plymouth is now, Massachusetts.
The story goes that after the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth Rock on December 11th, 1620, the Pilgrims (British separatists) lost 46 of their original 102 colonists. But, with the help of the Wampanoag Indians, they learned to care for their crops and survive the cold of their first winter in the New World.
The summer of 1621 yielded a bountiful harvest. To celebrate, a traditional English (or potentially Native American) three-day harvest festival was organized to commemorate the magnanimous event.
While there are different historical accounts of the number of natives and pilgrims who attended the celebration, the sentiment is that the settlers wanted to show their gratitude to the natives for their help by hosting a large feast.
Given the long and bloody history of conflict between Native Americans and European settlers, there is natural tension behind the validity of this claim.
How do you celebrate Thanksgiving?
Now that you’re schooled up on the history of Thanksgiving, let’s fast forward a few centuries to modern-day Thanksgiving. Here’s a Thanksgiving Day timeline:
9-10:00 am | Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade
Turn on the live stream or find your spot on the street as you watch giant helium balloons, floats, and marching bands parade through the streets of New York City.
10:00 am-12:00 pm | Go to the store
Thanksgiving, like most holidays in the US, is either a day off or a short day for employees. Luckily, grocery stores are usually open for the first half of the day, so make sure you get to the store early to pick up all the ingredients you’ll need to start cooking.
12-1:00 pm | Watch the presidential turkey pardon
Yep, you read that right, beginning in the mid-20th century, the President of the United States has “pardoned” one or two Thanksgiving turkeys each year, sparing the birds from slaughter.
All day | Watch American football
Thanksgiving Day football games are an essential part of the American Thanksgiving experience. It is a great chance to cheer for your favorite team and a good distraction from the fact that you’re probably not eating lunch. After all, you’re going to need to be HUNGRY once dinner time rolls around.
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All day | Cook, cook, cook
Preparing a proper Thanksgiving meal can take hours, sometimes even days, depending on what dishes you’re preparing and how many people you’re serving. Just the turkey alone takes at least 20 minutes for every pound, adding up to nearly five hours in the oven for the biggest birds.
What’s for Thanksgiving dinner?
For most non-vegetarian households, the turkey takes front and center at the Thanksgiving feast. Whether it’s roasted, smoked, brined, or fried, achieving that perfect blend of the crackled outer skin and moist inner meat is an art.
Before you even put the turkey in the oven, you must stuff it with cornbread, onions, celery, and dried cranberries. After hours of cooking in the cavity of the turkey, the “stuffing” comes out delightfully moist and meaty with sweet undertones.
Tart and sweet, cranberry sauce acts like Indian chutney to bring out the savory, juicy flavor of the turkey. Avoid the canned variety with this easy recipe from our Thanksgiving for a beginner’s guide.
Once you’ve removed the turkey from the oven, it’s gravy time. Made from the drippings on the bottom of the pan, turkey gravy is a meaty sauce that can be applied liberally across nearly every part of the Thanksgiving meal.