Thanksgiving is a holiday in the USA and Canada when people give thanks. It is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday of November in the USA and on the second Monday of October in Canada.
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday of November as a national Day of Thanksgiving. American immigrants brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada, beginning on April 5, 1872. The United States Congress permanently established the fourth Thursday of each November as a national holiday in the year 1941, and Canadian Parliament later established the second Monday of each October as a national holiday in the year 1957.
The First Thanksgiving
Although not as famous, the first "day of Thanksgiving" actually took place at Berkeley Hundred, Virginia in 1619 - a year before the Mayflower brought the Pilgrims to Massachusetts.
The Pilgrims were early settlers on the east coast of North America. They traveled from England on a ship called the Mayflower and made their new home in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts, 380 km northeast of what is now New York.
Many of the Pilgrims died during their first winter in North America. They were cold and did not have enough food. The following year, though, the Native Americans, who were from the Wampanoag tribe, helped them grow crops. At harvest time in the winter of 1621, they were very thankful that they had a good crop of food to eat during the coming winter. They thanked God and the Wampanoags for teaching them how to grow crops.
They invited three of the Wampanoags who had helped them to their feast. They were Squanto, Samoset, and Chief Massasoit. The Wampanoags brought their families. This was over 90 people. There were so many people that the Pilgrims did not have enough food to make the meal, so the Wampanoags brought along their own food for the feast.
The Wampanoags brought turkey, duck, fish, deer, berries, squash, and cornbread.* They also brought vegetables that they had farmed and shown the Pilgrims how to care for.
A traditional thanksgiving dinner today.
The Thanksgiving holiday is a four-day holiday over the weekend. Families and friends usually eat a special meal together (usually with a turkey as the main dish). This meal also usually includes mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, several casseroles, and stuffing. This meal is made to remember a group of settlers called the Pilgrims, who came from England in 1620 to make a new life in North America. The food eaten today for Thanksgiving is very different from the food that was eaten at the First Thanksgiving in 1621.
(*Cornbread or Johnny cake is a name for any number of "quick breads"- bread leavened chemically instead of by yeast- containing cornmeal. As maize (also known as corn) is native to North America, the various kinds of cornbreads are more prevalent there. In Italy, the corn-based mush known as polenta is sometimes fashioned into a fried form resembling cornbread.)
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, often shortened to Macy's Day Parade, is an annual parade presented by Macy's. The tradition started in 1924, tying it for the second-oldest Thanksgiving parade in the United States along with America's Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit, and four years younger than the 6abc IKEA Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia. The three-hour event is held in New York City starting at 9:00 a.m. EST (Eastern Time Zone) on Thanksgiving Day.
In the 1920s, many of Macy's department store employees were first-generation immigrants. Proud of their new American heritage, they wanted to celebrate the United States parade of Thanksgiving with the type of festival their parents had loved in Europe.
In 1920, the inaugural parade (originally known as the Macy's Christmas Parade and later the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Christmas Parade was staged by the store. Employees and professional entertainers marched from 145th Street in Harlem to Macy's flagship store on 34th Street dressed in vibrant costumes. There were floats, professional bands and live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. At the end of that first parade, as has been the case with every parade since, Santa Claus was welcomed into Herald Square. At this first parade, however, the Jolly Old Elf was enthroned on the Macy's balcony at the 34th Street store entrance, where he was then "crowned" "King of the Kiddies." With an audience of over a quarter of a million people, the parade was such a success that Macy's declared it would become an annual event.
Large animal-shaped balloons, produced by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, replaced the live animals in 1927 when the Felix the Cat balloon made its debut. Felix was filled with air, but by the next year, helium was used to fill the expanding cast of balloons.
At the finale of the 1928 parade, the balloons were released into the sky where they unexpectedly burst. The following year they were redesigned with safety valves to allow them to float for a few days. Address labels were sewn into them, so that whoever found and mailed back the discarded balloon received a gift from Macy's.
Through the 1930s, the Parade continued to grow, with crowds of over 1 million lining the parade route in 1933. The first Mickey Mouse balloon entered the parade in 1934. The annual festivities were broadcast on local New York radio from 1932 through 1941,and resumed in 1945 through 1951.
The parade was suspended 1942–1944 during World War II, owing to the need for rubber and helium in the war effort.The parade resumed in 1945 using the route that it followed until 2008. The parade became a permanent part of American culture after being prominently featured in the 1947 film, Miracle on 34th Street, which shows actual footage of the 1946 festivities. The event was first broadcast on network television in 1948.By this point the event, and Macy's sponsorship of it, were sufficiently well-known to give rise to the colloquialism "Macy's Day Parade".
New safety measures were incorporated in 2006 to prevent accidents and balloon related injuries. One measure taken was installation of wind measurement devices to alert parade organizers to any unsafe conditions that could cause the balloons to behave erratically. Also, parade officials implemented a measure to keep the balloons closer to the ground during windy conditions.