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What is Thanksgiving? A Basic Guide

Updated on October 19, 2015

"What is Thanksgiving?" is Something Wondered By Tens of Millions of non-Americans Every Year!

Any American reading the title of this page may be forgiven for wondering who is actually asking such a question! The reality, however, is that Thanksgiving is something which is not celebrated outside North America and something which most of us in the rest of the world have no understanding of, whatsoever. As a Briton, therefore, who is starting this page with almost zero knowledge of the holiday that is Thanksgiving, I am tentatively preparing myself to explore this occasion and help to educate others around the globe who have often wondered, like me, "What is Thanksgiving?"

What is Thanksgiving? - Thursday, October 8th, 2009

The date when I truly began to ponder this question...

It was while considering a matter almost totally unrelated to Thanksgiving that I actually began wondering what Thanksgiving actually is? I was looking through the calendar, considering when I should add topical dishes to my food blog, when I came to the month of November and remembered that Thanksgiving is celebrated in the USA during this month. On the morning of Thursday, October 8th, 2009, I "knew" three things about Thanksgiving:

1) It is something which is celebrated only in the USA (I have since learned that it is celebrated also in Canada but on a different date);

2) It is celebrated in the month of November;

3) It is the time of year when Americans most commonly eat turkey.

I am a person who generally has a thirst for knowledge and although I had of course heard of Thanksgiving, I actually surprised myself in that I have never made any effort to find out more about it. I decided therefore that it was time I put that right and perhaps helped educate other non-North Americans who are equally in the dark as to the nature and significance of Thanksgiving.

The History of Thanksgiving

How and when did Thanksgiving begin?

There was certainly no shortage of material online for me to begin my research in to Thanksgiving. On the contrary, there exists perhaps so much that I was deluged with information!

I have managed to establish - briefly, however - that although there were a couple of Spanish, "Thanksgiving," religious ceremonies conducted in both Florida and Texas beforehand, the modern American tradition of Thanksgiving stems from the pilgrims in 1621. Following a previously harsh and debilitating Winter, the pilgrims befriended a local Native American tribe, who educated them in the ways of the local farming, fishing and hunting techniques. As a result, the pilgrims knew a bumper harvest in 1621 and they celebrated this fact with the Native Americans in the form of a three-day long feast of merry-making.

Gradually, this process caught on around the fledgling United States until the fourth Thursday of November was formally inaugurated as Thanksgiving Day by President Abraham Lincoln.

The History of Thanksgiving on Video - A real education for me

Simply click on the arrow in the centre of the screen to begin...

Healthy Turkey Recipes

Turkey recipes for Thanksgiving, Christmas or any time of year

Turkey, for some unknown reason, is a dish very much associated with certain times of the year around the world. Be it Thanksgiving in the USA and Canada, or Christmas here in the UK and in mainland Europe, turkey tends only to be eaten at such special times.

The reality is, however, that turkey is not a seasonal dish, like many fruits and vegetables. It is entirely possible to enjoy turkey all year round, in a great variety of different, healthy fashions. Below is a link to a website giving some ideas for healthy turkey recipes which can be enjoyed at any time of the year.

Healthy Turkey Recipes for Thanksgiving and Beyond

Happy Thanksgiving to all my North American friends!

This is the place where you can have your say about Thanksgiving. Do you have any little known facts about Thanksgiving to share? Do you celebrate Thanksgiving in an unusual way? I - in common with millions of others - would love to know! I look forward to sharing your tips and ideas with all other site viewers.

How do you Normally Celebrate Thanksgiving, or what is your Understanding of Thanksgiving? - Let us all know in the space below!

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      julieannbrady 6 years ago

      I like to be prepared ... hey Gordon ... I sincerely hope you have a "Happy Thanksgiving!" Thanks for being there!

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      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Happy Thanksgiving Gordon -- ah, I see you did a lens! Can never be enough thanks to go around.