Why is Thanksgiving Day celebrated?« Back to Questions List

Thanksgiving Day is a day of celebration that began as a day for expressing gratitude for the blessings of harvest and other favors of the preceding year. Over the years, the celebrations grew in magnitude and Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in many countries like Canada, the United States, Liberia and some of Caribbean islands. Similar festivals are celebrated in other countries like Germany and Japan too. 

The day of celebration vary from country to country. Canada celebrates Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday of October while in the United States the celebration falls on the fourth Thursday of November. It is mainly a secular celebration, though prayers and thanksgiving after harvesting are common in many religions. 

In the United States, Thanksgiving Day originated as a harvest festival. Historical documents show recording of first celebration in 1619 in Virginia.  It was being celebrated on and off since 1789, after congress requested a proclamation by George Washington. Thanksgiving proclamations prior to 1789 were made mainly by church leaders and royal governors. George Washington was the first US president to proclaim nationwide thanks giving and that celebration happened on November 26, 1789.  Since 1863, every year, it has been celebrated as a federal holiday.  During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day for Thanksgiving and Praise of God in the Heavens.  Now, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas and the New Year form part of the longer fall/winter holiday season in the U.S.

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Both houses of the U.S. Congress in 1941 passed a joint resolution fixing the traditional last-Thursday date for the celebration from next year. But the senate made an amendment to the resolution fixing the day of celebration as the fourth Thursday of November, which in effect is normally the last Thursday and occasionally the next to last. On December 26, 1941, President Roosevelt signed this bill, thus making  the date of Thanksgiving a matter of federal law.

The origins of Thanksgiving Day celebration in Canada are traced to 17th centuries. The French settlers celebrated their harvests during said periods.  Once settlers from New England reached in Nova Scotia after 1700, the celebration became common.  Other immigrants from Ireland, Scotland and Germany added their flavor to the celebration.  The US aspects of celebrations also got added. 

Thanksgiving day in majority of countries are celebrated by doing charity, distributing food to poor, enjoying thanksgiving meals and dinner. Special prayers, parades and sports events add colour to the event.

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