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. But why is it celebrated? Sometimes Thanksgiving is referred to as turkey day because so many people eat turkey on Thanksgiving. But, guess what? No one knows for sure 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 of 1620, 102 people set sail to the “New World.” These people are known as Pilgrims. The pilgrims were English Protestants who wanted to be free from the English church. They wanted religious freedom and were looking for a new place to call home.
They set sail for 66 days across the Atlantic Ocean on the ship the Mayflower. The Mayflower was one of the ships the 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 landed in an area that was occupied by the Wampanoag people also called Wampanoag Indians. The Wampanoag people had been living there for centuries.
These settlers living on the new land were struggling to survive. They did not know how to grow food, many of them 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 so they wouldn’t starve. The pilgrims had to work hard to learn these new techniques, even the children worked in the fields. His teaching helped save the Pilgrims and for this, they were very thankful.
Native Americans were key to the survival of the pilgrims!
Why do we Celebrate Thanksgiving?
In March 1621 an agreement was made between Pilgrim leader William Bradford and Wampanoag Chief Massasoit. 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 referred to as 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 for sure if turkey was eaten at 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 in their lives. What are you thankful for?
Thanksgiving Declared a National Holiday
President George Washington declared the 1st national Thanksgiving Day in 1789 and again in 1795.
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 Thanksgiving 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 the moving Thanksgiving up one week would help the economy by making the Christmas shopping season longer.
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 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 today over 90% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving.
Each year the president of the United States pardons one turkey so the turkey is not cooked and eaten for Thanksgiving dinner. The tradition started in 1947 with President Truman.
One popular Thanksgiving tradition is watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. The parade first began in 1924. 400 Macy’s employees marched in the parade along with the animals from the Central Park Zoo. 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. Macy’s canceled the parade from years 1942-1944 and 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 due to the coronavirus, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade will be held virtually.
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 dessert many people will eat over 4,500 calories in that one meal!
Popular Dessert Items
Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie, Sweet Potato Pie, Apple Pie
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 made 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 that we are thankful for in our lives.
What were some of the foods the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people are the 1st Thanksgiving?
At their harvest celebration, the Wampanoag People and the Pilgrims ate corn, duck, deer, shellfish, carrots, and eggs. 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 the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade start?
The Macy’s Thanksgiving parade started in 1924