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"The First Thanksgiving", painted by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (18631930).

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, on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Friday of November in China. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday of November as a national Day of Thanksgiving.[1] 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 Native Americans for teaching them how to grow the local foods.

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.

Thanksgiving today

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. The food eaten today for Thanksgiving is very different from the food that was eaten at the First Thanksgiving in 1621.