Every year, on the fourth Thursday of November, we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States of America. It is a day of family, friends, eating, and football.
Sometimes Thanksgiving is referred to as turkey day because so many people eat turkey on Thanksgiving. But guess what? No one knows if turkey was even eaten on the first Thanksgiving!
If you want to learn more? Check out these Thanksgiving facts for kids!
Who were the Pilgrims?
In September 1620, 102 people set sail to the “New World.” These people are known as Pilgrims.
The pilgrims were English Protestants who wanted freedom from the English church. They wanted religious freedom and sought a new place to call home.
They set sail for 66 days across the Atlantic Ocean. The ship they sailed on was called the Mayflower.
The Mayflower was an English ship; it was also one of the ships Christopher Columbus used.
The Pilgrims landed in the Colony of Plymouth in what is now Massachusetts. This is where they settled to start a new life. The Pilgrims were supposed to arrive in October but didn’t arrive until November.
Living in the New World
The Pilgrims landed in an area occupied by the Wampanoag people, also called Wampanoag Indians.
The Wampanoag people had been living there for centuries.
The Pilgrims were struggling to survive in the new land. They weren’t prepared for the harsh winter.
They did not know how to grow food, and many starved and died.
During the first winter, 45 out of the 102 pilgrims died. To learn more about the Pilgrims, click here.
Squanto, an English-speaking native, visited the Pilgrims and taught them how to grow corn and fertilize their fields. The pilgrims used what they learned to support themselves and grow food.
The pilgrims had to work hard to learn these new techniques, and even the children worked in the fields. His teaching helped save the Pilgrims; they were very thankful for this.
Native Americans were key to the survival of the pilgrims!
Why do we Celebrate Thanksgiving?
In March 1621, Pilgrim leader William Bradford and Wampanoag Chief Massasoit made an agreement. It was agreed that the Wampanoag people and the Pilgrims would protect each other against enemies.
To celebrate the agreement, the Wampanoag and Pilgrims had a harvest feast.
This harvest feast is now called the first Thanksgiving.
This harvest feast lasted three days.
During this time, the Wampanoag people and the Pilgrims feasted on deer, duck, shellfish, cabbage, carrots, and eggs.
No one knows if turkey was eaten on the first Thanksgiving.
They also played ball games, sang songs, and danced.
Today, many Thanksgiving celebrations involve eating a big meal with family and friends. During these large feasts, people are encouraged to think of everything they are thankful for. What are you thankful for?
Thanksgiving Declared a National Holiday
President George Washington declared the 1st national Thanksgiving Day in 1789.
In 1846, Godley’s Lady’s Book Magazine Editor Sarah Josepha Hale campaigned for Thanksgiving to be a national day of giving thanks and prayer.
Her campaigning paid off, and in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared two Thanksgivings, one in August to commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg and the second on the last Thursday in November to give thanks.
In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to move Thanksgiving to the third Thursday in November.
The country was still suffering from the Great Depression. President Roosevelt believed that moving Thanksgiving up one week would help the economy by prolonging the Christmas shopping season.
People were upset with the thought of moving Thanksgiving up. In 1941, Congress passed a law that declared Thanksgiving a national holiday to be held every year on the 4th Thursday of the month of November.
American Thanksgiving is held in November, but in Canada, Thanksgiving is held on the second Monday in October. In Canada, people celebrate Thanksgiving to celebrate a healthy harvest and the good fortunes that happened in the last year.
Thanksgiving Day Facts for Kids!
Even though no one knows if turkey was eaten on the first Thanksgiving, over 90% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving.
Each year the president of the United States pardons one turkey; the pardoned turkey is not cooked or eaten for Thanksgiving dinner. The tradition started in 1947 with President Truman.
Family traditions make the Thanksgiving holiday extra special; here are some Thanksgiving traditions: Having a large turkey dinner with deserts that include pumpkin or sweet potato pie.
Another popular Thanksgiving tradition is watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. The parade first began in 1924. 400 Macy’s employees and the animals from the Central Park Zoo marched in the parade. There were no giant balloons. Today, thousands of people take part in Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.
- Character balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade started in 1927; they included a caveman, a dachshund, a turkey, chickens, a duck, a dinosaur, and Felix the Cat.
- Mickey Mouse balloon debuted in the parade in 1934
- During World War II, there were helium and rubber shortages, and Macy’s canceled the parade from 1942-1944. They donated their rubber balloons to the U.S. government.
Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. It is the biggest shopping day of the year! Black Friday kicks off the Christmas season shopping.
In 2020 for the first time in history, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade will be held virtually due to COVID-19.
In many families, another tradition is to watch or play football with the family. Some families spend the day talking about Christmas shopping and going over Christmas lists. How does your family celebrate Thanksgiving?
Traditional Foods Served on Thanksgiving
Green Bean Casserole
What is your favorite Thanksgiving meal? Did you know that the average American will eat about 3,000 calories in one Thanksgiving dinner? If you add in appetizers and desserts, many people will eat over 4,500 calories in that one meal!
Popular Thanksgiving Desserts
Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie, Sweet Potato Pie, Apple Pie
Fun Thanksgiving Facts for Kids
When is Thanksgiving celebrated in the United States?
Thanksgiving is celebrated on the 4th Thursday of the month of November.
Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving was originally celebrated to celebrate the agreement between the Wampanoag People and the Pilgrims to protect each other from enemies. Today, we think of Thanksgiving as a day to celebrate our family and friends and everything we are thankful for.
What were some of the foods the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people ate on the 1st Thanksgiving?
The Wampanoag People and the Pilgrims ate corn, duck, deer, shellfish, carrots, and eggs at their harvest celebration. It is unknown if they ate turkey.
What activities did the Wampanoag People and the Pilgrims do on the 1st Thanksgiving?
The Wampanoag People and the Pilgrims danced, played ball games, and sang songs.
When did Macy’s Thanksgiving parade begin?
The Macy’s Thanksgiving parade started in 1924
Click here for a Thanksgiving Coloring Page