Monday, October 11, 2010


Thanksgiving Day is a harvest festival celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. Traditionally, it is a time to give thanks for the harvest and express gratitude in general. While perhaps religious in origin, Thanksgiving is now primarily identified as a secular holiday.


The date and location of the first Thanksgiving celebration is a topic of modest contention.

The history of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to an explorer, Martin Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean. Frobisher's Thanksgiving was not for harvest but homecoming. He had safely returned from a search for the Northwest Passage, avoiding the later fate of Henry Hudson and Sir John Franklin. In the year 1578, he held a formal ceremony in Newfoundland to give thanks for surviving the long journey French settlers who came to New France with explorer Samuel de Champlain in the early 1600s also took to celebrating their successful harvests. They even shared their food with the indigenous people of the area as well as setting up what became known as the "Order of Good Cheer." As many more settlers arrived in Canada, more celebrations of good harvest became common. New immigrants into the country, such as the Irish, Scottish and Germans, would also add their own harvest traditions to the harvest celebrations. Most of the American aspects of Thanksgiving (such as the turkey) were incorporated when United Empire Loyalists began to flee from the United States during the American Revolution and settled in Canada.

The traditional origin point for Thanksgiving in the United States is the celebration that occurred at the site of Plymouth Plantation, in 1621. The Plymouth celebration occurred early in the history of what would become one of the original thirteen colonies that became the United States. This Thanksgiving, modeled after celebrations that were commonplace in contemporary Europe, is generally regarded as America's first. 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. According to historian Jeremy Bangs, director of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, there may have been an influence of the annual services of thanksgiving for the relief of the siege of Leiden in 1574, which the Pilgrims witnessed during their stay in Leiden

Thanksgiving in Canada did not have a fixed date until the late 19th Century, when it was typically held on November 6th. After the end of World War I, Thanksgiving Day and Remembrance Day ceremonies were usually held during the same week. To avoid the two holidays from clashing with one another, in 1957 the Canadian Parliament proclaimed Thanksgiving to be observed on its present date. Thanksgiving in the United States had typically been observed on different dates throughout history; by the beginning of the 20th century, the final Thursday in November had become the standard day of Thanksgiving in most U.S. states. It would not be until December 26th, 1941 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt, after pushing to move the date earlier to give the country an economic boost, signed a bill into law making Thanksgiving a national holiday fixed to its current date. Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States, and on the second Monday of October in Canada.