Thanksgiving: Gather in gratitude (and pass the turkey) on America’s oldest holiday

Above table with Thanksgiving type dishes of food and multiple hands toasting glasses

Photo by Satya Murphy, courtesy of Flickr

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 26: Clasp hands in gratitude and share a custom embedded in American history, on the national holiday of Thanksgiving. Originally a 1621 feast shared between Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans, the turkey-centered meal that graces most American tables today has changed significantly since its initiation. This year, New York Times features a look at Julia Child’s impact on Thanksgiving (plus a few of her favorite recipes), and USA Today examines the turbulent relationship between Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

Keep reading, and you’ll find Thanksgiving history tidbits to share at your dinner table, tantalizing dish suggestions, activities for kids and more.

Ready? Let’s turkey!

THE WAMPANOAGS, THE PILGRIMS & THANKSGIVING

Days for thanksgiving have an integral place in many faiths, and it was a day for gratitude that Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans shared, in 1621, that became the American secular holiday known as Thanksgiving today. For the Wampanoag, giving thanks for the Creator’s gifts was a long-standing tradition; for the European Pilgrims, an abundant harvest gave more than enough reason for a celebration of gratitude. The 1621 feast lasted three days, and historic estimates point to approximately 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Native Americans in attendance.

By the 1660s, an annual harvest festival was common in New England—a custom often proclaimed, in early years, by church leaders. Continental Congress declared the first national Thanksgiving in 1777, and years later, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a federal holiday. In 1941, Thanksgiving was permanently placed on the fourth Thursday of November on the American calendar.

Illustration on old postcard of boy and turkey quarreling

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

FOOTBALL, PARADES & TURKEY TROTS

In tradition held almost as dear as the turkey, Thanksgiving in America has become an occasion for football—after all, the National Football League has played games on Thanksgiving since its inception. Since 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has marched down the streets of New York City, and in Detroit, America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade also has a long history. Many cities across the U.S. today host a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.

RECIPES, CRAFTS AND NEWS

From traditional sweet potatoes to a new twist on cranberries, there’s no shortage of Thanksgiving recipes—find menus to satisfy any cook from Food Network, AllRecipes, Food & Wine and ReadTheSpirit’s own FeedTheSpirit.

Feeling crafty? Adult DIY instructions for Thanksgiving décor are at HGTV, and kids can get creative while the turkey’s cooking with ideas from Disney and Parenting.

Julia Child—the national Thanksgiving commander-in-chief? Read a fascinating history of Julia Child and the American Thanksgiving, and click here for Aunt Helen’s Fluffy Pumpkin Pie, Sherry Vinegar-Glazed Onions, Spicy Dried Fruit Dessert Sauce and more tempting recipes.

‘Organic’ or ‘All Natural’? Learn how to read turkey labels, with help from USA Today.

Volunteering this Thanksgiving? Learn the facts ahead of time—of how to be the most help—and understand how to really pitch in.

Traveling? Get the 2015 Travel Outlook. For travel tips, check out this article from the Washington Post.

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