When people think of Thanksgiving, most remember the story of the Pilgrims and the Indians at Plymouth Rock. The Pilgrims first arrived in America on December 11, 1620, not prepared for the winter they were to face. Out of the 102 who arrived on the Mayflower, forty-six of the people died during the first few months. Despite the devastation, they had a good harvest, partly in thanks to the Indians who lived nearby.

They had a traditional British Harvest Feast in thanks to God for surviving and the blessings of provisions that would see them through the winter. In contrast to our modern Thanksgiving menu, they actually had more meat than vegetables, including venison, fish and wild foul, which may or may not have actually been turkey. They probably didn't have much in the way of desserts, as they didn't have a lot of flour or sugar on hand. They probably had some fruits and corn. Instead of pumpkin pie, they probably had boiled pumpkin. The first Thanksgiving feast lasted for three days.

Thanksgiving was not an annual event in the U.S. for many years. In 1623, there was a drought and instead of having a celebration, the Pilgrims held a prayer service. When their prayers were answered the next day, they invited their Indian friends to join them in another Thanksgiving observance.

June 20, 1676 was celebrated as a day of Thanksgiving in Charlestown, Massachusetts. However this was very different than the first Thanksgiving. This was to celebrate a victory over the Indians. Another victory, this time over the British, was celebrated in October of 1677 by all of the thirteen colonies. George Washington established the first national Thanksgiving day in 1789, however not everyone thought it was a good idea, including Thomas Jefferson.

It wasn't until 1863 that what we know as our modern Thanksgiving came into being. Sarah Josepha Hale decided to promote Thanksgiving in her magazine, Boston Ladies' Magazine and in Godey's Lady's Book. The last Thursday in November was proclaimed the National Thanksgiving holiday by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. He proclaimed it "a day of thanksgiving and praise to the beneficent Father." Thanksgiving was celebrated on that date for 75 years until President Roosevelt set the day one week earlier in 1939. He wanted to lengthen the shopping period between Thanksgiving and Christmas to help businesses. Congress finally ruled in 1941 that the fourth Thursday in November would be the legal National Thanksgiving Day holiday.

Thanksgiving Day is a day set aside in the United States and Canada for giving thanks. People give thanks with feasting and prayer for the blessings that they have received during the year. The first Thanksgivings were harvest festivials, or days for thanking God for plentiful crops. For this reason, the holiday is associated with fall - a time of harvesting the crops.

In Canada, the day used to be celebrated on the last Monday in October. In 1957, the Canadian government proclaimed the second Monday in October for the national holiday.

When is Thanksgiving 2011? In the United States, Thanksgiving is always celebrated on the 4th Thursday in November. Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated the 2nd Monday in October.


U.S. Thanksgiving

Canadian Thanksgiving


Thursday, November 26

Monday, October 12


Thursday, November 25

Monday, October 11


Thursday, November 24

Monday, October 10


Thursday, November 22

Monday, October 8


Thursday, November 28

Monday, October 14


Thursday, November 27

Monday, October 13


Thursday, November 26

Monday, October 12