Happy Thanksgiving 2019! What is the history behind the holiday and how do Americans celebrate it?

Laura Hampson, Georgia Chambers, Tom Herbert
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Happy Thanksgiving! Today marks a time when Americans the world over get together with their families and celebrate a festive occasion.

There aren't many things as American as the Thanksgiving holiday, a tradition which has made it's way across the pond in recent years.

It's the perfect opportunity to catch up with friends and family, eat inordinate amounts of food and indulge in some festive fun.

Having been celebrated for hundreds of years, there's a huge amount of history behind Thanksgiving and the holiday marks a wonderfully enjoyable time of year.

Here's all you need to know.

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When is Thanksgiving?

This year, Thanksgiving falls on Thursday, November 28. It always falls on the fourth Thursday in November.

What is Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is what traditionally kicks off the holiday season in the US. It wasn’t an official holiday until President Franklin D. Roosevelt made it so in 1939 and was approved by Congress in 1941.

In America, it's often enjoyed as a bigger holiday than Christmas, with a focus on family and food - especially turkey.

Why do people celebrate Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving can be traced back to 1621 where refugees from England, known as Pilgrims, invited the local Native Americans to a harvest feast after they experienced a successful season of produce growth.

The first Thanksgiving did not include turkey, but rather a three-day feast of goose, lobster, cod and deer.

Why do Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving?

Americans eat over 50 million turkeys at Thanksgiving and while there are multiple claims as to why turkeys are used, the most likely would be because turkeys are native to North America and would have been an easy choice for the early settlers.

However, one lucky turkey is given the Presidential pardon each year. This year, Donald Trump will pardon his first turkey.

What else do people generally eat on Thanksgiving?

Turkey, stuffing and pies – pumpkin, pecan, apple and sweet potato are the traditional desserts.

Why is American football relevant to Thanksgiving?

In 1934, the University of Detroit hosted the first Thanksgiving Day football game between Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears.

The game became the first-ever network broadcast event in the US and was so popular that a Thanksgiving Day football game continues today – and Detroit has played every year since.

Do Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving?

Whilst Canada also celebrates Thanksgiving, there are some distinct differences.

Firstly, in Canada Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October.

The Canadian Thanksgiving is also associated with Europe as festivals of thanks took place throughout the continent in October.

Do Brits celebrate Thanksgiving?

While it is not a national holiday, Brits have Harvest Day which is the equivalent but it not as widely recognised or celebrated.

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