Every autumn, Canadian and American families gather for a day centred around community, food and giving thanks – the day of Thanksgiving. Where did this holiday come from and how is it celebrated today?

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The history of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving combines the traditions of different groups of people. Travellers and migrants brought different religious traditions from Europe to the United States and Canada. Several celebrations are claimed as the first Thanksgiving. The best known is the celebration held by the pilgrims in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts after their journey across the Atlantic Ocean on the famous Mayflower ship. Like the pilgrims, many groups held days of prayer, fasting or feasting to give thanks for successfully making the long boat journey. Later, settlers celebrated their successful harvest in a new land by holding feasts with their Native American neighbours. Over time, the Canadian and American traditions have become similar and developed into the modern holiday of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving today

In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October. In the United States, it is on the fourth Thursday in November. Although its origins are religious, today, Thanksgiving is a largely secular holiday. For most Americans and Canadians, it is a day for coming together with family and friends to share a large meal. It is an occasion to spend time with loved ones and express gratitude for the year that has passed. In many households there is a tradition of everyone seated at the table sharing what they are most grateful for.

Thanksgiving food

Thanksgiving is also about food. Thanksgiving dinner traditionally includes roast turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and, for dessert, apple, pumpkin or pecan pies. Every family has its own recipes, sometimes secret recipes handed down through generations. Turkey, a bird native to North America, is the unofficial mascot of Thanksgiving, with roast turkey on the menu and turkey decorations on the wall. In the United States, a tradition of gifting turkeys to the President has more recently evolved into a humorous turkey ‘pardoning’. At this light-hearted ceremony, the President issues an official pardon for one or two turkeys, saving them from being cooked for supper.

More than food: football, parades and traffic jams!

Beyond food and gratitude, there are some unexpected sides to the American and Canadian holiday. One of these is football. This popular sport is an important part of the holiday, when families gather around to cheer on local or national teams. American football and Canadian football are both similar to rugby, played primarily not with the feet but with the hands.

Parades are another common part of the festivities. In the United States, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade takes place in New York City on the morning of Thanksgiving. It’s one of the world’s largest parades and is broadcast nationwide. A similar Thanksgiving parade happens in Canada as part of the Kitchener–Waterloo Oktoberfest, a multi-day autumn festival.

Unfortunately, heavy traffic is also common at Thanksgiving. In both countries, the week of Thanksgiving is one of the most popular travel times of the year, as everyone heads home to visit their extended family. So try to avoid any road trips if you’re visiting North America during this holiday!

Discussion

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Upper intermediate: B2

Comments

We have special day that have feast with family at new year.We eat some fish and drink alcohol.also we pray some future. at this year I pray my job will be better opportunity to rise my computer skills and growing English skill.

Hi Team!

I have been thinking that this level is so easy to put C1, Perhapes that could be B1 as well as the other subjects, furthermore I did not found any word in this text with level C1 in the dictionary. Hence I would like to be wrong because that I will get happy reading that one easily.

Best Regards.
Igor.

Hello Igor

I agree that C1 seems a bit high. We rate texts ourselves and then use text analysis software to set levels for our reading texts. The software showed C1 as the level for this text, though admittedly there are only a handful of words at the C level here. I think there are enough words at the B2 level or higher (at least 25) and enough long sentences with fairly complex structures to make B1 too low a level for this page. But I agree that C1 is too high, so I've changed it to B2.

Thanks very much for telling us about this!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

That was so interesting!

I used to think that Thanksgiving Day was a 100% American holiday. But, as usually, the things are never that simple.

In pakistan we dont have any special day to have meal toghether though people meet each other and have tea at one another's home on Eid day..Eid is a festival muslim celebrate twice in a year.one is called EID ul fit other is call EID ul azha.on these special occassion people who had quarrel or unhappy with one another become friends again and forget all the grievences.

In Azerbaijan we mainly celebrate Nowruz which is mostly expected holiday for every year. Four Tuesdays until the day of Nowruz have own special iconic meaning. First Tuesday is "water", then second one is "fire", "earth" and last one is "wind". These are symbolic meanings of Nowruz. There are special sweets, cookies which are main part of this holiday and you can find all these foods at every home on that day: Shakarbura, Pakhlava and Goghal.
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Although this holiday is celebrated in many other countries and mainly religious related, but in our country it is only secular and related with Spring season, nature.

In Georgia New Year is the only day celebrated by everyone who live there,there are many ethnic groups who have different relegions and different religious days to celebrate but new year is common day.Traditionaly Georgian's preparation is begins one week earlier,we prepare traditional foods such as: Gozinaki,churchxela,xachapuri,kubdari,sacivi,roasted piglet,roasted torkey.We also make many European salads,cakes and other dishes.On 31 December's night family members gather together around the table, drink,eat,make wishes for the next year,listen our orthodox patriarch's congratulatory epistole.This Day is considered as a simbole of new life...

In Russia, we celebrate The New Year at night between 31th December and 1st January. Family gathers to spend this night together and have a feast.
Of course, different families have different traditions of celebration, but the most common dishes are tangerines, Russian salad (we call it Olivie), dressed herring, sandwiches with caviar or red fish and meat jelly. We eat, listen to music (the same singers every year), dance, listen to the President's congratulatory speech (the same President every year :) ), go out to see salutes and then go back home to open gifts which were laying under the Christmas tree.
After the New Year, we have a week of public vacation. And then, 7th January is an Orthodox Christmas, it's the New Year 2.0!

In our country people is mostly Catholic, the families gather to have a feast on Christmas on the 25th of December. In this feast families give away objects and sing popular songs from Christmas.

In Bangladesh, we celebrate "Pohela Baishakh" the first day of Bangla New Year. In this day, most of the people gathered in different places in different territories where the people enjoy themselves and take different kinds of food mostly "Panta Vat ( wet rice) and Hilsha fish - the traditional food. All the people form all kinds of religion observes this day.

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