Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day, currently celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November by federal legislation in 1941, has been an annual tradition in the United States by presidential proclamation since 1863 and by state legislation since the Founding Fathers of the United States. Historically, Thanksgiving began as a tradition of celebrating the harvest of the year.
Thanksgiving in North America had originated from a mix of European and Native traditions. Typically in Europe, festivals were held before and after the harvest cycles to give thanks for a good harvest, and to rejoice together after much hard work with the rest of the community. At the time, Native Americans had also celebrated the end of a harvest season. When Europeans first arrived to the Americas, they brought with them their own harvest festival traditions from Europe, celebrating their safe voyage, peace and good harvest. Though the origins of the holiday in both Canada and the United States are similar, Americans do not typically celebrate the contributions made in Newfoundland, while Canadians do not celebrate the contributions made in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Most of the U.S. aspects of Thanksgiving (such as the turkey or what were called Guineafowls originating from Madagascar}, were incorporated when United Empire Loyalists began to flee from the United States during the American Revolution and settled in Canada.
In the United States, the modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition traces its origins to a 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts. There is also evidence for an earlier harvest celebration on the continent by Spanish explorers in Florida during 1565, as well as thanksgiving feasts in the Virginia Colony. The initial thanksgiving observance at Virginia in 1619 was prompted by the colonists’ leaders on the anniversary of the settlement. The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest. In later years, the tradition was continued by civil leaders such as Governor Bradford who planned a thanksgiving celebration and fast in 1623. While initially, the Plymouth colony did not have enough food to feed half of the 102 colonists, the Wampanoag Native Americans helped the Pilgrims by providing seeds and teaching them to fish. The practice of holding an annual harvest festival like this did not become a regular affair in New England until the late 1660s.
According to historian Jeremy Bangs, director of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, the Pilgrims may have been influenced by watching the annual services of Thanksgiving for the relief of the siege of Leiden in 1574, while they were staying in Leiden.
The claim of where the first Thanksgiving was held in the United States, and even the Americas has often been a subject of debate. Author and teacher Robyn Gioia and Michael Gannon, of the University of Florida, have argued that the earliest attested “Thanksgiving” celebration in what is now the United States was celebrated by the Spanish on September 8, 1565, in what is now Saint Augustine, Florida.
Similarly, many historians point out that the first thanksgiving celebration in the United States was held in Virginia, and not in Plymouth. Thanksgiving services were routine in what was to become the Commonwealth of Virginia as early as 1607. A day of Thanksgiving was codified in the founding charter of Berkeley Hundred in Charles City County, Virginia in 1619.
Thanksgiving is celebrated in Canada (October), Liberia (early November), Norfolk Island (late November and the United States (fourth Thursday in November). In 2012, Puerto Rico will celebrate on the same date – November 22.
Excerpt from wikipedia
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