History of Thanksgiving

History of Thanksgiving Day:

  • Thanksgiving Day is a widely celebrated annual holiday in the United States and Canada.
  • This holiday serves as an occasion to give thanks for the blessings of the past year and bringing families, friends and communities together.

Table showing brief history of Thanksgiving Day from 1621 to present


Year   Date Country        Reason of celebrations
1621 late Nov United States Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans shared a feast to give thanks for a successful harvest.
1789 November 26 United States President George Washington announced a national day of thanksgiving and prayer.
1863 November 26 United States President Abraham Lincoln declared a national Thanksgiving Day during the Civil War.
1879 Various dates Canada Various provinces celebrated Thanksgiving which later became a national holiday.
1941 Fourth Thursday United States Congress established the fourth Thursday in November as the official Thanksgiving Day.
1957 Second Monday Canada Thanksgiving Day was fixed to the second Monday in October.
2008 November 27 United States President George W. Bush pardoned a turkey in a traditional ceremony at the White House.
2020 November 26 United States Virtual gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2021 November 25 United States Celebrated with traditional feasts
2022 November 24 United States Traditional celebrations with feasting and time spent with family and friends.
2023 November 23 United States Expected traditional observances including gratitude and community gatherings.


Term Thanksgiving Day coined by:


Term Coined by Alexander Young
Term Coined: Thanksgiving which is now widely associated with the holiday of expressing gratitude and giving thanks.
Year 1841
Date of Birth October 22, 1800
Date of Death July 13, 1854
Career Editor, Historian, Minister


A comparison between Thanksgiving Day in USA vs. Canada


Aspect Thanksgiving Day in USA Canadian Thanksgiving Day
Date: Fourth Thursday in November Second Monday in October
Historical Origin: Pilgrims’ harvest festival; later recognized by presidents Indigenous and European harvest celebrations; officially established as a national holiday in 1879
Historical Context: Early English settlers and Native American interactions Celebration of bountiful harvests in a new land
Festive Activities: Football games


Family gatherings

fall celebrations

Traditional Foods: Turkey

mashed potatoes

cranberry sauce

pumpkin pie



cranberry sauce

local dishes

Duration of Celebrations: Typically a long weekend Often includes the Monday as a holiday for a longer celebration
Historical Figures: George Washington

Abraham Lincoln

No specific historical figure
International Observance: Observed in the USA Observed in Canada

Key figures of Thanksgiving Day


Key Figures            Contributions towards Thanksgiving Day
Pilgrims and Wampanoag Natives Shared a feast in 1621 to give thanks for a successful harvest
George Washington Issued a declaration in 1789 to designate a national day of thanksgiving and prayer
Sarah Josepha Hale Supported for a unified Thanksgiving Day through her writings and letters to presidents
Abraham Lincoln Announced Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863 during the Civil War
Franklin D. Roosevelt Signed a bill in 1941 establishing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day


Traditional feature foods of Thanksgiving Day

Food        Description
Turkey Roasted centerpiece symbolizing abundance and tradition.
Stuffing or Dressing Mix of bread, herbs, and vegetables, often cooked inside the turkey.
Mashed Potatoes Creamy side dish made from boiled potatoes.
Gravy Flavorful sauce made from turkey drippings.
Cranberry Sauce Sweet-tart condiment made from cranberries.
Sweet Potatoes or Yams Mashed or casseroled root vegetables with sweet toppings.
Green Beans Classic vegetable dish, sometimes with creamy sauce and crispy onions.
Corn Served as cornbread, pudding, or on the cob.
Pumpkin Pie Iconic dessert with spiced pumpkin filling.
Brussels Sprouts Roasted or sautéed vegetable side.
Mashed Turnips or Rutabagas Root vegetables mashed with seasoning.