10 Facts About the History of Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving, which is primarily celebrated in the United States and Canada, is a holiday that many people look forward to each year. Thanksgiving enables people to spend quality time with family and friends while enjoying a scrumptious feast. However, not everyone is aware of how Thanksgiving came about and why we celebrate it, as it’s not all about Pilgrims like many have been led to believe. So, just how did Thanksgiving begin?

The very first Thanksgiving celebration was in 1621, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in order for the Plymouth Colonists and the Wampanoag Indians to celebrate the success of their first harvest. Although Thanksgiving hasn’t always been on a Thursday, it once fell on a different Thursday of the month. In 1789, President George Washington declared the 26th of November as Thanksgiving, so it wasn’t always a Thursday.

Then, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in the United States. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt switched Thanksgiving to the third Thursday in November, in an effort to bolster sales for the upcoming Christmas shopping season. Finally, in 1941, Thanksgiving was declared a federal and legal holiday, which fell on the last Thursday of the month of November.

What Are the Most Popular Thanksgiving Traditions?

There are many popular Thanksgiving traditions, and having a large gathering while enjoying turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and other sides is one of the most popular. Another especially popular Thanksgiving tradition is attending a Thanksgiving parade. One of the most favored Thanksgiving parades in the United States is the Macy’s parade, which is in New York City. If people are unable to attend this grand parade, then they can watch it on TV, as it’s televised.

Some additional Thanksgiving traditions are breaking the wishbone of the turkey and making a wish, as well as friends and family members stating what they’re thankful for. Watching the NFL on TV or attending a game in person is another definite Thanksgiving tradition in the United States.

Top 10 Thanksgiving Family Traditions

  1. One of the most favored Thanksgiving traditions is families sharing pumpkin pie for dessert, although dessert wasn’t included in the very first Thanksgiving meal in 1621.
  2. Another favorite Thanksgiving tradition is the family choosing to enjoy their feast earlier in the day, before heading to the movie theater in the afternoon or evening.
  3. Since many Thanksgiving family gatherings include at least some young children, many have a table dedicated to crafts, so the children can keep themselves occupied while getting into the holiday spirit.
  4. If families are unable to make it to the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in person, which is always a real treat, one important tradition is watching the parade together on TV.
  5. Many families make time on Thanksgiving to volunteer their time and services at the local soup kitchen to help serve hot turkey dinners to the less fortunate.
  6. There aren’t many families who haven’t lost at least one precious loved one, so some make it a tradition by lighting candles in order to honor these deceased loved ones.
  7. Yet another popular Thanksgiving tradition is for family members to all bring different types of wine, so they can all sample them.
  8. One tradition that is becoming more and more common is families opting to take the day off from all the cooking and eating out at a restaurant, whether it’s a Thanksgiving-type meal or even Chinese.
  9. Many families find it fun, creative and adventurous to cook Thanksgiving foods that are traditional in other countries.
  10. Some families who gather together on Thanksgiving make it a tradition to have a turkey cupcake decorating contest.

Five Thanksgiving Memories that Last Forever

Even if people fail to realize it, each year they celebrate Thanksgiving, they’re making memories that can last a lifetime. Here is a list of five Thanksgiving memories that can last forever:

  • Baby’s first Thanksgiving – if you are a parent, some of the most memorable Thanksgivings can be when your child or children celebrated their very first Thanksgiving with the family.
  • The last Thanksgiving spent with a special person – unfortunately, not everyone lives forever, and a very special memory can be when you share a final Thanksgiving with a friend or loved one who passes away before the next Thanksgiving comes around.
  • The first Thanksgiving for a new family – whether it’s a husband and wife who are spending their first Thanksgiving together as a married couple, or a family who has adopted a child and spends their first Thanksgiving together, spending Thanksgiving together as a family can be exciting and extremely memorable.
  • Investing in a memorial for a deceased loved one – loved ones who have passed on are typically missed more often during holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is why investing in a special memorial service to commemorate that loved one can be such a great tradition that families can start. Having a special memorial for deceased loved ones can make families feel as if these loved ones are there with them, instead of feeling sad on this special holiday.
  • Recording videos of family gatherings – just about every Thanksgiving family gathering has at least one unofficial photographer, but why not make things even more special by taking videos of your special holiday gathering? This can significantly enhance your enjoyment and memories.

As you can see, there are some very interesting facts about the history of Thanksgiving traditions. Many of these traditions include remembering lost loved ones, which can make spending time together on this holiday somber. However, Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be somber, as there are many creative ways to honor deceased loved ones on Thanksgiving Day, instead of feeling sad because they’re no longer around. You can choose how you want to memorialize your deceased loved one, so it will always seem as if they’re spending Thanksgiving with you, now and in the future.