Thanksgiving Day: Meaning, History, and Worldwide Celebrations
This week, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day, the largest national holiday, even more popular than Christmas! Everywhere in the United States people gather together with their friends and family, begin their day by watching a Thanksgiving Parade (being New York’s Macy’s the most famous), go shopping for ingredients, and prepare a delicious meal with typical dishes.
But why do we celebrate Thanksgiving exactly? What are the origins of this festivity? Is it only celebrated in America, or do other countries hold similar holidays as well? We’ll tell you all you need to know about Thanksgiving in this article! Tune in your favorite Thanksgiving songs and keep on reading.
When do we celebrate Thanksgiving?
Unlike Christmas (December 25th), Independence Day (July 4th) or Saint Valentine’s Day (February 14th), Thanksgiving Day doesn’t have a fixed date. It is annually held on the fourth Thursday in November –this year, 2020, is November 26th. The day after Thanksgiving is always a Friday, and it sets the beginning of Christmas shopping: it is known as “Black Friday” because sales boost up and those incomes that were so far “red” (negative figures) become “black” (meaning cash income overpasses expenses).
It is funny how the date of the holiday is so late in the autumn when the origins of Thanksgiving Day were the celebration of the harvest, something that occurs early in October.
A little bit of history
There is no clear consensus on when the celebration took place for the first time. Many people claim that the first Thanksgiving dinner was in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621. The Pilgrims who arrived in the Mayflower on December 11, 1620, had lost many of their original colonists and depended upon the Native Americans to grow their food and survive the crude winter in the New World. After the summer produced an abundant harvest, Pilgrims and natives got together and celebrated with a huge harvest festival.
However, there are pieces of evidence of previous harvest celebrations, and it is unclear how close to the historical facts is the idealized picture of Pilgrims and Native Americans celebrating together.
Thanksgiving celebrations around the world
Thanksgiving is typically an American holiday (although many American immigrants living in Israel, Liberia, or Grenada celebrate as well) so you won’t find worldwide celebrations as we do in New Year. However, the USA is not the only country that celebrates Thanksgiving.
Canada holds similar habits and celebrates ever since 1872 to thank for King Edward VII’s health recovery. However, the date is not the same: our northern neighbors celebrate their Thanksgiving on the second Monday each October. Around the same date, a similar holiday is held in Italy, mostly in the city of Rome, where they celebrate the goddess Ceres on October 4th. Games, music, and parade are part of the celebration.
In South America, Brazil is the only country where Thanksgiving massively takes place the same day as in America. Joaquim Nabuco, a Brazilian ambassador, visited Washington during Thanksgiving, and he was thrilled with the celebration, so he decided to establish a similar holiday in his country. Celebrated since 1949, 'Dia de Acao de Gracas' is not nearly as popular in Brazil as in the USA, yet many people decide to give thanks, pray at their local church, and express gratitude to God for all of His blessings. The holiday has a religious meaning but the spirit of gratitude is basically the same.
Similar celebrations take place in Asian countries, such as India, specifically in the state of Goa, where each year they celebrate Ladin, or Ladainha –which also has a meaning related to Christianity. In Japan takes place Kinrō Kansha no Hi, or Labor Thanksgiving Day, on November 23rd, a date adopted during the American occupation after World War II. Also, China, Malasia, Korea, all of them hold similar festivities centered on gratitude, harmony, and peace, although the dates of celebration and the traditions are different than ours.
Different countries keep celebrating the harvest, such as Germany with their Erntedankfest, held on the first Sunday of October, which also has a religious connotation, and the most popular Oktoberfest, a world-known beer-festival! And in the United Kingdom, the Harvest Festival usually takes place near the Sunday of the harvest moon, at the beginning of October (same as in Canada). Although it involves singing, praying, collecting food to help homeless people and local charities, it is an ancient festival that has roots older than Christianity.
What do we celebrate then?
If you are reading this in the USA, you already know what to expect for next Thursday, and you are probably looking forward to a wonderful time! More important than historical facts is the undeniable cultural value Thanksgiving has for every American. It is a time of the year to get together with your closest friends and family and to give thanks. Maybe today you don’t harvest your own food, but we still have a lot of reasons to be thankful! It is a time of the year to experience deep gratitude and to share the love and much richness around us with the people we care for.
Besides enjoying a delicious meal and watching football, try to take some time to give thanks. It doesn’t matter if you are religious or not, you still have a place in your heart to embrace gratitude for every each person around you that means something important, that has changed your life for good, and that gives meaning to every little thing you do: your parents, your siblings, your friends, maybe your children or your significant other, of course, but also, your classmates, your co-workers, maybe your music teacher, your neighbors, or your pet… Give thanks because you are healthy, because you have food on your plate, because those moments you feel happy and enjoy life!
And even if you live in any other country, it is still a great opportunity to feel grateful and to express good desires to your beloved ones!
Happy Thanksgiving from everyone here in Nabi Music!