May 29, 2023 Martha Simons

Table of Contents

Thanksgiving AKA “The National Day of Mourning”, and “The Thanksgiving Massacre.” is certainly a controversial national holiday that is officially celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November each year. 

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days of the year as family members from all around the globe gather for a feast. It’s a time for families to express gratitude for all the blessings in their lives and enjoy a traditional feast while doing so. 

The holiday itself has a long and complex history that dates back to the early days of European colonization in America. However, the main theme of Thanksgiving which is the promotion of community, thankfulness for the blessings, and unity among natives and settlers remains central to the significance of this holiday. 

In this article, our expert academic writers from WriteMyEssay.ca will shed light on why we celebrate Thanksgiving and why it continues to be one of the most important national holidays in the US. 

How Did Thanksgiving Start?

There are three popular opinions about how Thanksgiving started and what it is celebrated for. So let’s discuss each one.

  1. The 1621 Harvest (Most Popular Opinion)

According to the History of Massachusetts Blog and Britannica, The most popular opinion on how Thanksgiving started originated from the harvest celebration between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people in Plymouth, Massachusetts in the year 1621.

In September 1620, an English ship named the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England with 102 passengers on board. These passengers mainly included religious separatists who were seeking a new home to practice their faith without any problem and others who wanted to build a prosperous life and own new land in the “New World”. 

The passengers faced great hardships while sailing across the Atlantic Ocean between never-ending storms they finally reached a safe harbor near the tip of Cape Cod after a 66-day journey. However, their troubles did not come to an end even after sailing towards Plymouth and establishing a village there. 

Only 53 pilgrims colonists out of the 102 survived the first winter in the New World, the never-ending diseases, and starvation thanks to the local Wampanoag tribe who gave them food supplies, taught them how to grow crops, and how to use fish remains as fertilizer for crops during the winter. 

It was after the first successful fall harvest that the colonist pilgrims held a “Thanksgiving feast”  with the Wampanoag tribe people who helped them survive the winter. This feast most likely happened sometime between September and November of 1621.

The pilgrims had certainly much to celebrate and therefore they started to celebrate Thanksgiving each year after the Harvest. Thus making this the most popular opinion on how Thanksgiving originally started. 

  1. A Simple Religious Affair (Second Most Popular Opinion)

Many people believe that the feast after a successful fall harvest was never called Thanksgiving and it was just a harvest celebration that is an English tradition. These people believe that the first Thanksgiving was held after a few years in July 1623

Thanksgiving was never a special celebration rather it was just a simple religious day of prayer and fasting observed by the colonist pilgrims who settled in their new world. Therefore this is the second most popular opinion on how Thanksgiving originally started. 

  1. Copy of a Foreign Tradition (Unpopular Opinion)

Many historians believe that Thanksgiving celebrated by the Native Americans (Wampanoag tribe) and colonial pilgrims was copied or influenced by European harvest festivals namely the Oktoberfest from Germany or the Celtic festival from the Samhain.

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What is the Dark History of Thanksgiving

You must be wondering why many people also remember Thanksgiving Day as the National Day of Mourning and what’s the history behind that. what is the real history behind Thanksgiving? Was Thanksgiving originally religious? Is it only a cultural event? Did the Pilgrims kill the Natives after Thanksgiving? 

Want to know the true dark history behind Thanksgiving? Let’s make it simple for you to understand.

Here’s what happened:

Thanksgiving Dark History

Many Native American Indians (especially the Wampanoag tribe) still mourn their forefather on Thanksgiving and call it the National Day of Mourning because of what happened some years after the first Thanksgiving was celebrated between Native Americans (Wampanoag tribe + other natives) and colonial pilgrims (who migrated to the new world).

What happened some years after the first Thanksgiving is that thousands more European Settlers (Colonial Pilgrims)  came to Plymouth and started to invade the land owned by Native Indian Americans. The Native American Indians whose population was already disaster stuck by the pandemic of “The Indian Fever”, a disease that the settlers brought with them (rat feces that came on ships carried this disease). 

The Wampanoag warriors, at last, responded with raids to stop the land invasion by the European settlers. Responding to these raids the settlers who first came as pilgrims declared war known as the King Philip War against natives in 1675. The war was devastating and there were huge losses on both sides. With natives losing almost all of their land control and settlers winning the war to establish their rule.   

Later in the 1970s Frank James, a Wampanoag activist who actively took part in the struggle to establish the National Day of Mourning called the Wampanoag’s welcoming the European settlers (colonist pilgrims) their biggest mistake. According to Frank James, their support for the European settlers only brought genocide of their people and the taking of their land. This absolute massacre of the Native Indian Americans by the European settlers is known as the dark history of Thanksgiving which is why the Native Indian Americans dont celebrate Thanksgiving and recall it as a massacre of their people. 

Thanksgiving Becoming a National Holiday

Sarah Josepha Hale, a resident of New Hampshire, played a central role in the establishment of Thanksgiving as a national holiday in the United States. Starting in 1846, she wrote letters to all five sitting presidents that included Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln – urging them to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday.

On September 28th, 1863, President Lincoln officially declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, thanks to Sarah J. Hale’s persistent advocacy. At a time when the country was embroiled in the Civil War, Lincoln recognized the importance of having a unifying national holiday that could bring people together in gratitude and celebration. And so, Thanksgiving became a national holiday that continues to be celebrated to this day, reminding us of the power of gratitude and community. 

Note: Thanksgiving in America and other parts of the world is celebrated as a symbol of peace, cooperation, and brotherhood between the Native Americans and the English Settlers and not as a memory of the bitter war that followed the initial peace. 

How Do We Celebrate Thanksgiving

Family Gettogether: Family members gather from all parts of the country to attend a large traditional feast.

Traditional Feast: The traditional feast is full of delicious treats including stuffed roasted or baked turkey,  mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie, and a variety of other dishes. 

The Parade: Many people watch Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade which is held in New York each year on television or in person. It’s one of the biggest parades in the world.

Football and Games: Football is a popular activity on Thanksgiving. Many other games are also played on Thanksgiving. 

Charity and Community Development: Thanksgiving is a symbol of different communities working together to benefit each other, therefore it involves volunteers working for events and organizing charitable events. 

Expressing Thankfulness: Expressing gratitude for all the blessings of life just like the first Thanksgiving where natives and colonists celebrated the first harvest is also an essential part of the Thanksgiving celebrations. 


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Following is a list of top Thanksgiving traditions in the US. Let’s discuss each: 

Six Most Popular Thanksgiving Traditions

  1. The Family Get together

The tradition of having large family dinners dates back more than 400 years ago when the first Thanksgiving feast took place. Families come together on this day to celebrate the spirit of gratitude and thankfulness for the blessings of life. 

Family members spend quality time together and give up all their grievances to enjoy each other’s company. Thus all family members create lasting memories that they cherish for years. 

  1. The Traditional Feast

No Thanksgiving is complete without a traditional feast with all the necessary dishes that include baked or roasted turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. 

Many families also include other regional and cultural dishes in their Thanksgiving meal menu. The succulent turkey, creamy mashed potatoes, and tangy cranberry sauce along with apple pie or pumpkin pie in the dessert make the meal ever so delicious. 

However, the Thanksgiving meal is not all about satisfying your tastebuds. It is a widely-observed custom to give thanks at the table for all the blessings of life including food before before they begin feasting. 

Whether saying grace or saying what each one of the family members is most thankful about, showing appreciation for the blissful life is an essential part of Thanksgiving.

  1. Thanksgiving Day Parade

Every year parades are held all across the country and family members gather to either watch the parade in person or through their tv-screens. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade which is held in New York each year is the biggest and most-watch parade of all. 

People from all around the world gather to see witness the Macys parade that first started in 1924. The colorful floats, the marching bands, and the impressive performances are a sight that everyone wants to witness on Thanksgiving. 

  1. Football Games

One other tradition is to watch the NFL football games that are held on Thanksgiving. Some families also organize their games of football at parks or in their backyards to enjoy Thanksgiving to the fullest. 

  1. Giving Back to the Community

A community that works together and supports each other communities to survive and prosper is the real dream of Thanksgiving. Just like 400 years ago when two completely different communities came together and help each other, people do charity and give back to the community to show appreciation and regard for their community.  

Many people volunteer for local soup kitchens and food banks to provide for people in need. Charity walks are also organized to raise money for orphans and the needy.

  1. Expressing Gratitude for the Blessings

Expressing gratitude and being thankful for all the blessings in life is observed all day long on Thanksgiving. No matter if it’s the food table or the parade people are seen thanking to be alive and blessed with health, wealth, and other blessings of life. 

6 Weird Thanksgiving Traditions

While many Thanksgiving traditions are centered around food, family, community building, and brotherhood. Some unusual or quirky customs have emerged over the years. Here are 6 weird yet popular Thanksgiving traditions:

  1. Crack the Bone & Good Luck

Some families have a custom to fight over the turkey’s wishbone. The wishbone is a forkey chest bone of a turkey bird. Two family members hold onto the two ends of Turkey’s bone and pull it until it breaks into two pieces. 

The person who is left with a larger piece of bone is said to have good luck throughout the year or they may get their wish granted by a family member. 

  1. The Best Blessing You Have

Sharing what you are most grateful for in life among family members before the feast begins has also become a weird Thanksgiving tradition. This new tradition is among the best traditions that make this festival even more fun by letting you focus on the bright side of life.

  1. The Turkey Race 

Some communities in the US and other countries organize the Turkey Trot Races. In these races, the participants dress up in turkey-themed costumes and race with each other. 

  1. The Presidential Pardon

Every year on Thanksgiving, the President of the United States spares a turkey’s life by sparing it from not being cooked for the feast. The tradition has now become an annual spectacle after it started in the 1940s.

  1. Deep-Fried Turkeys 

While roasted or baked turkey is a common traditional dish, many people nowadays deep fry their turkeys on Thanksgiving. Deep frying Turkeys have certainly increased the number of cooking disasters all across the country. This weird Thanksgiving tradition has now become a common practice for many people. 

  1. Sandwiches from Leftovers

Families have now adopted one more weird tradition and that is to make a sandwich from leftover ingredients. They call it the “Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwich”. This traditional sandwich mainly contains leftover slices of turkey, cranberry sauce, leftover stuffing, and gravy that is stacked up between two slices of bread.

Most people perform a post-Thanksgiving ritual by swearing at this leftover sandwich before eating their sandwich. 


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7 Interesting Facts About Thanksgiving Holiday

  1. The National Declaration

The National Declaration of Thanksgiving can be traced back to President George Washington, who made the first national proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1789. However, it wasn’t until the presidency of Abraham Lincoln in 1863 that Thanksgiving was officially declared a national holiday.

Lincoln recognized the importance of having a unifying national holiday that could bring people together in gratitude and celebration and therefore declared the last Thursday of November as a national day of Thanksgiving. 

  1. Magical Powers

The tradition of breaking the turkey’s wishbone between the two family members came from the ancient Etruscans. They believed that the bird’s wishbone held magical powers. 

  1. Roasted Turkey

The concept of roasting the turkey instead of baking become popular in the 1800s when farmers found ways to breed large turkey birds to celebrate Thanksgiving. 

  1. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

Thanksgiving Day parades have been a tradition since the late 1800s, with Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City being the most famous parade among all the parades in the country.

  1. Where did Black Friday Come From?

The term “Black Friday” which takes place on the next day after Thanksgiving mainly originated from Philadelphia in the 1960s. This term mainly describes the chaos and heavy traffic that is caused by pedestrians and automobiles on the next day after Thanksgiving. 

  1. Canadian Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is also celebrated in Canada and some other countries, however, the Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October instead of the 4th Thursday of November. 

  1. The Largest Parade

World’s largest Thanksgiving parade takes place in Houston, Texas with more than 400,000 participants and spectators combined. 

500 Word Narrative Essay Example on “How Do I Celebrate Thanksgiving”


Thanksgiving is a special holiday in my family and therefore holds a separate place in my heart. It is a time when all our family members come together to give thanks for the countless blessings and celebrate the joys of life. As a child, Thanksgiving was always a magical time for me. Now as an adult, my family’s traditions have evolved, however, the essence of the holiday remains the same. It is certainly a day full of gratitude, warmth, and giving back to the community.

I remember that I always impatiently waited for Thanksgiving all year long. The festivities always begin on Wednesday but I got excited from the start of November. In my teen years while I was away from home I packed my bags on Monday and took off for the whole week to spend time with my family. We all spent the Wednesday evening preparing for the big day ahead. I remember buzzing with excitement in the anticipation of the Thanksgiving feast that awaited.

On Thanksgiving morning, I woke up early to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television. I loved watching the floats, balloons, and performances. After the parade, we all pitch in to help prepare the food. My mother along with my grandparents took care of the turkey while my sisters and I work on the side dishes. The kitchen used to get filled with the aroma of roasting turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry juice, and pumpkin pie.

Once all the food is prepared my mother got out her best china and silverware, and my sisters and I arrange the decorations. We have a tradition of placing a small pumpkin at each place setting, with a note attached stating what each person is thankful for. I remember how those days felt amazing as all of us focused on the bright side of life.


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Before we started feasting, all of our family members held hands and say a prayer of thanks. We also took turns sharing what we are grateful for, and it’s always touching to hear what everyone has to say. After that, it was time to dig in. The food is delicious, and we all enjoy second helpings. The feast was usually followed up with my father bringing out his guitar and singing songs together. It’s a tradition that started when we were kids and has continued to this day.

Today I am 62 years old and my children along with my grandchildren have come to visit my house for Thanksgiving. Even at this age, I am still very excited to have all of them for this traditional feast. I pray that this beautiful tradition continues for generations to come. What makes me sad is that eventually, it will be time to say goodbyes. Hugs will be given and, promises will be made to see each other soon. However what makes me happy is that even when the holiday is over, the memories and the warmth of the day will stay with me.

In conclusion, Thanksgiving is a special holiday in my family. We celebrate it with food, music, and gratitude, and it is a time for us to come together and enjoy each other’s company. From watching the parade to sharing what we are grateful for, our traditions have evolved but the spirit of the holiday remains the same. It’s a day that gets us out of our busy schedules and celebrates being alive and well with our loved ones. I hope this beautiful tradition continues for generations to come. 

The Conclusion

In this fast-paced life and the unforgiving depressive world, an event like Thanksgiving allows you to stop and breathe. Life nowadays is depressing and full of neverending challenges, in this kind of hectic life a cultural event like this is nothing less than a blessing.

Being close to loved ones and family members gives you internal peace and comfort. Being thankful and appreciative of things makes you look at the bright side of life and makes you think that there is more to life than just hardships and constant struggle. 

From the food to the festivities, it is a time to come together with loved ones, give thanks, and enjoy the many blessings in our lives. Whether you spend the day cooking, watching football, volunteering, or simply relaxing with family, Thanksgiving is a cherished tradition that brings joy and warmth to communities everywhere.

FAQs About Why We Celebrate Thanksgiving

Why did the Pilgrims celebrate the first Thanksgiving?

The first recorded religious Thanksgiving Day in Plymouth occurred in 1623, two years after the 1621 harvest gathering. While it is likely that prayers and thanks were offered at the earlier gathering, the 1623 occasion was specifically to give thanks to God for providing rain after a two-month gap.

When did Thanksgiving become a National Holiday?

The Congress proclaimed Thanksgiving in 1942, making Thanksgiving a national holiday observed around the United States to this day.

When did the US government declare Thanksgiving as a national holiday?

In 1863, Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln. Later, in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made the fourth Thursday of November the official day for celebrating Thanksgiving, solidifying it as an annual tradition for Americans. 

Why Is Thanksgiving in the U.S. Celebrated on a Thursday?

It’s because President George Washington proclaimed that the nation would celebrate a day of thanksgiving on Thursday, November 26th, in 1789. Celebrating Thanksgiving on a Thursday during the harvest season became a tradition, and it was later established as a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

Why Do We Eat Turkey on Thanksgiving?

One of the most enduring traditions of Thanksgiving Day is Turkey as the main dish of the feast. While there is no definitive answer as to how turkey became the main dish for Thanksgiving, it is believed that the tradition can be traced back to the 17th century when wild turkeys were plentiful in Plymouth where the European settlers first settle. 

Turkey was the main course of the Thanksgiving feast that they shared with the Native Indian Americans at the first fall harvest.

Which US president made Thanksgiving a national holiday?

Thanksgiving was established as a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Amid the Civil War, Lincoln proclaimed that the last Thursday in November is set aside as a day of Thanksgiving which helped in ending the Civil War. 

Where is Thanksgiving celebrated?

Thanksgiving is primarily celebrated in the United States and Canada. While the holiday originated in America, some other countries, such as Liberia and Grenada, also observe Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

Do other countries celebrate Thanksgiving?

Yes, countries other than the United States that include Canada, Liberia, and Grenada also celebrate Thanksgiving as a national holiday. 

When Did Thanksgiving Become a National Holiday?

Continental Congress declared the first national Thanksgiving on December 18, 1777, and then in 1789, George Washington declared the last Thursday in November a national Thanksgiving.

Who was Hales what was her role in Thanksgiving?

Sarah J. Hales a resident of New Hampshire resident wrote letters to all five presidents starting in 1846. She wrote letters to five presidents: Zachary Taylor, Millard Filmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln asking them to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday. Finally, President Abraham Lincoln accepted her request to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.