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An American Thanksgiving

By Charlotte A. F. Farley

Pilgrims, Indians, turkey, football, and parades—this is the list you’ll get if you ask most Americans what Thanksgiving is all about. I should know—I’m American.

The Roots of Thanksgiving

We commemorate the first Thanksgiving each year. The story goes that the Plymouth colonists (who left England in order to pursue freedom in religious worship) Wampanoag made nice with each other and supped together, giving thanks over the bountiful harvest; hence; we eat a huge feast each year on the fourth Thursday of November: think turkey, cornbread, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing/stuffing, cranberry sauce, green bean casseroles, broccoli casseroles, apple pie and pumpkin pie—mm, I’m getting hungry!

As a holiday

In 1863—right in the throes of the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln (one of our great presidents) decided it would be a fantastic idea to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. It was President Franklin D. Roosevelt who signed a resolution of Congress to consistently celebrate the holiday on the fourth Thursday of each November.

Thanksgiving Traditions

Each particular family or friend group has its own set of traditions to celebrate Thanksgiving, but some staples include:
Eating turkey (90% of American households cook a turkey on Thanksgiving)
Napping after the big meal
Playing games or cards with family
Participating in a food drive
Watching parades, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan
Seeing elementary school plays about the first Thanksgiving
Watching games from the NFL (National Football League)
Pulling on the wishbone
Giving thanks (by going around the dinner table and stating what you are thankful for, giving a prayer of thanks, or sending cards of thanks)
Sparing the turkey

The National Turkey Federation gives a live Thanksgiving turkey to the White House, along with two butchered turkeys, and has done so for over sixty years. The Annual Turkey Ceremony occurs before the actual holiday, affording the public a chance to name the creature, which then resides at Kidwell Farm, a Virginia petting zoo.
On a serious note:
In all seriousness, the point of the holiday is for us to reflect on the bounty we have in life in addition to the bounty that’s set upon our finely dressed tables. We give thanks for freedom, family, friends, and all of the small things that we cherish in our hearts.


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