Why Do We Celebrate Thanksgiving - Uncover the Reasons
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Find Out Why We Celebrate Thanksgiving - Learn the Origins and Traditions

Find Out Why We Celebrate Thanksgiving - Learn the Origins and Traditions

Written by

Melanie Jane


14 mins read

"Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." This quote was said by William Arthur Ward, an American Author, which excellently captures the essence of the Thanksgiving holiday. This festival has had myriad effects on Americans, thus further inspiring them to embrace a gratitude attitude and a feeling of appreciating the blessing in their lives.

Despite having a personal impact, the festival has influenced socioeconomic factors. Consumers spending behavior drastically changes during this period. People buy food, decorations, and gifts more than the average days. The economy is bolstered as travel and tourism surge. In addition, many charitable organizations engage in food drives to assist those in need. In one sentence, Thanksgiving is an integral part of North America as it unites the people on this continent in a spirit of kindness and appreciation.

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What Is Thanksgiving About?

Thanksgiving is notable largely in the United States and Canada, though other countries have similar holidays to that of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving day in the U.S. is on the fourth Thursday of November, while in Canada is on the second Monday of October. The primary purpose of the Thanksgiving holiday is, as the name implies, a time to give thanks for the year’s blessings, including good fortune and the harvest.

The most promiscuous event in this holiday is the assembly of families and people to dine together. Meals mainly feature turkey, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. Parades, football matches, and other celebrations also characterize the day. Historians believe the tradition goes back to the era of the early settlers in America. These settlers used to hold feasts with the indigenous Americas to celebrate the bountiful harvest and give thanks to their new home.

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Why Do We Celebrate Thanksgiving?

To understand why Thanksgiving is celebrated, you must first grasp the history of Thanksgiving. So, let’s begin by looking at the origins of Thanksgiving and when did thanksgiving become a national holiday.

  • 1621: The Thanksgiving festival originated from the settlers who arrived in America from England in the 15th The fundamental goal of these Pilgrims was to seek religious freedom. The first recorded Thanksgiving festivity happened in 1621 and was held for three days. Both the settlers and Native Americans participated in the celebration. The festivity was a way to celebrate a successful harvest and for the pilgrims to show gratitude to God for their new life in America.
  • 1863: From the first celebration up to the start of 1800, the Thanksgiving festival had become an annual event famous in numerous areas of the United States. Nonetheless, it was not a public holiday until the reign of President Abraham Lincoln. In 1863, Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to be a holiday that would be honored on the last Thursday of November. Lincoln claimed that the day’s tradition would continue as it has always been: giving thanks for the year’s blessing.
  • 1939: Thanksgiving Day was changed by The U.S. House to the fourth Thursday in November. President Franklin Roosevelt influenced this, as he wanted to extend the holiday shopping season to lift the economy. It is worth knowing that you can receive an economics essay writing service from us.

Although Thanksgiving has evolved over the years, since the settlers introduced it into America, its key reason for celebration has remained intact. It has always been a time to give thanks for the blessing. In the midst of showing gratitude, people dine with families and friends, help those in need, and hold big parades and football games.

Which Countries Celebrate Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is evident in multiple countries and states but is most noticeable in the United States and Canada. The Thanksgiving day in these two countries is on the fourth Thursday of November and the second Monday in October, respectively. Other countries that have a holiday characterized by the theme of gratitude and appreciation for the blessings of the year are as follows:

  • Japan: This country’s Thanksgiving date is November 23rd, which is termed Labor Thanksgiving Day. The day is a national holiday focused on giving thanks to the workers and their impact on society.
  • Germany: The Erntedankfest (which means “Harvest Festival” in English) is celebrated in Germany. It is all about giving thanks for the good fortune. It is commemorated on the first Sunday in October.
  • Brazil: This South American country celebrates Thanksgiving Day on the same day as the U.S., the fourth Thursday in November. However, the day is not a public holiday. The day is called Dia de Acao de Gracas, the Portuguese term for “Thanksgiving.”
  • Liberia: Most present-day inhabitants in Liberia are the descendants of formerly enslaved people from the United These ancestors carried the Thanksgiving traditions from American society into their new home. Their holiday is referred to as National Thanksgiving Day, and it is a public holiday.
  • Grenada: This is a small country in the Caribbean. It has Thanksgiving Day, which is also a public holiday, celebrated on October 25th.
  • Norfolk Island: This is an area in the South Pacific that is part of Australia’s territory. On this island, Thanksgiving Day is a public holiday celebrated last Wednesday of November.

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How Did Thanksgiving Start in Different Countries?

We have looked at the countries that celebrate Thanksgiving in the above sections. In this section, we will discuss how the festivity started in some of those countries, namely:

  • United States
  • Canada
  • Germany
  • Japan
  • Brazil

United States

The first Thanksgiving festival in the U.S. dates back to the early colonial period (around 1620) when Pilgrims pursuing religious independence settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts. In the subsequent year, they held a feast deemed the first Thanksgiving ceremony. The Thanksgiving tradition spread to all the other American colonies with time. Then in 1963, it was pronounced a public holiday by President Abraham Lincoln.

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Find Out Why We Celebrate Thanksgiving - Learn the Origins and Traditions


Canada and the U.S. Thanksgiving share several similarities. This is because the European settlers and explorers also started Thanksgiving traditions in Canada. The first Thanksgiving to be recorded in Canada happened in 1578. The ceremony was done by Martin Frobisher, an English traveler, who gave thanks for surviving the lengthy voyage. Nonetheless, it was until 1879 that Thanksgiving Day became a formal annual holiday in this country. The Thanksgiving day kept changing up to 1957 when the nation set a specific day to celebrate Thanksgiving. They agreed the festival should happen on the second Monday in October.


Thanksgiving Day in Germany nation is known as Erntedankfest. Its precise origins are not well-documented, but there are rumors that it was adopted from ancient pagan harvest celebrations.  Pagans used to have Thanksgiving festivities, which with time, were embraced by Christian traditions, specifically those in rural areas. It gained religious significance as it is currently celebrated in the entire German nation.

The holiday is used to show gratitude to God for a bountiful harvest and involves the following events:

  • Church services
  • Processions
  • Parades
  • Communal feasting
  • Decorated carts filled with harvest produce


Labor Thanksgiving Day, also referred to as Kinrō Kansha no Hi, is an official formal holiday in Japan celebrated on 23rd November. The holiday dates back to the ancient harvest festivals in these nations, though the modern aspects of Thanksgiving emerged after the Second World War. Labor Thanksgiving Day was created in 1948 to honor workers. The holiday usually promotes:

  • Labor rights
  • Social harmony
  • Spirit of gratitude

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Thanksgiving Day in Brazil, known as the Dia de Acao de Gracas, is practiced by selected individuals due to American influence. A large population of Brazil does not celebrate it, hence why it's not a public holiday yet. Only some Brazilian communities and expatriate circles observe this tradition. It is typically because these groups have specific ties with the United States. 

Which Events Happen During The Thanksgiving Day?

Thanksgiving is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm in all countries, even in countries with a festival comparable to Thanksgiving. Several events take place during this festival. The most typical events are listed below.

  • Preparing a Thanksgiving meal: Many families spend the eve of Thanksgiving preparing the meal together. Habitually, the meal comprises roasted turkey, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.
  • Giving gratitude: As mentioned above, the key reason for celebrating Thanksgiving is to give gratitude to God for good fortunes. People use different ways when giving thanks, such as reciting a prayer, drafting a gratitude journal, and/or sharing what they have with their families and community.
  • Parade: Many cities hold parades during the day of Thanksgiving. The most famous city is New York which holds the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Key features in the parade include marching bands, balloons, and floats.
  • Football: This festival is also marked with football games. The National Football League usually organizes three matches on this day.
  • Charity work: People like to volunteer for a charity, mainly food drives during Thanksgiving.
  • Shopping: Thanksgiving serves as a harbinger of the shopping season. Black Friday follows immediately the day after Thanksgiving, and it’s known for its massive sales offers. Many people take advantage of these sales and go on a massive shopping spree.
  • Family time: If your American family does not spend time together during Thanksgiving, you are missing one of the key events of Thanksgiving. Families come together during this day and spend time doing activities as a group. Mostly, families play a certain game or watch a movie.

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Which Presents Are Given On Thanksgiving Day?

The focus on Thanksgiving is gratitude and spending time with our loved ones instead of majoring in giving gifts. Nonetheless, some people hand out gifts while saying thanks. Some common gifts you will come across during this holiday are:

  • Food gifts: The typical food gifts include homemade treats and a gourmet food basket. Homemade treats include edibles such as pies, cookies, and bread. The basket contains items such as chocolates, crackers, and cheese.
  • Gratitude journal: This is a text written on decorated paper that aims to sensitize the recipient about regularly giving thanks and focusing on the blessings in their lives.
  • Hostess gifts: A hostess gift is usually carried by a guest who is going to have dinner in another person’s home. Some typical hostess gifts are a decorative candle, a box of chocolates, a bottle of champagne or wine, and a bouquet of flowers.
  • Thanksgiving-tailored décor: Other people give Thanksgiving-tailored decors such as table runners, autumn-themed candles, and a wreath for the front door.
  • Custom-made items: This entails items such as monogrammed mugs, pillows, and blankets. Or any other thoughtful and unique gifts you can think of for your loved ones.

Why Is Thanksgiving On A Thursday in the United States?

Is Thanksgiving always on a Thursday? Yes, in the United States. Why is the holiday on a Thursday and not any other day?  Historians are not sure why Thursday was chosen and not any other day. However, they believe it is because the Puritan colonists, who introduced the Thanksgiving tradition, wanted to distance Thanksgiving day from the Sabbath. It is important to understand that, over the years, Thanksgiving Day changed several times, as most presidents kept moving the date when they were at the helm.

It was until 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln pronounced Thanksgiving Day a National Holiday. He decided to make it a holiday to give thanks for several blessings, mainly the culmination of the 36-year crusade. His reason for choosing Thursday is unknown, but people anticipate he followed what the settlers had done.

Two centuries later, in 1941, The U.S. House decided to set the fourth Thursday of November as the Thanksgiving Holiday. They chose the fourth Thursday to lengthen the Christmas shopping season, which was what President Franklin Roosevelt wanted in 1939. There was no documented reason for the federal government to choose Thursday. Historians believe they wanted to continue with the same tradition of Thursday.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Date Is Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is largely observed in the United States and Canada. It is not celebrated on a specific date but on the fourth Thursday in November and the first Monday in October, respectively.

2. Is Today Thanksgiving?

It depends. If today is the fourth Thursday in November, then it is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. If it is the first Monday in October, then it is Thanksgiving in Canada.

3. Does Mexico Celebrate Thanksgiving?

Mexico has no national holiday of Thanksgiving. Nonetheless, it is common to find some families and communities celebrating Thanksgiving while the United States is celebrating. It is because Mexico is a neighbor of the U.S., so some people have been influenced by American traditions.

In A Nutshell

Thanksgiving holiday is a day set aside by several countries and individuals to express gratitude for the good fortunes that have happened throughout the year. The United States and Canada are the principal nations that vigorously celebrate this day and have it as a national holiday. Look at this article to learn more about Thanksgiving in these countries and others. You will understand why Thanksgiving is celebrated, how it started in different countries, and the events and presents that are common in this festival, among other aspects.

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