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Thanksgiving Day

Celebrate on: Fourth Thursday in November

Thanksgiving Day is the fourth Thursday in November, but many Americans take a day of vacation on the following Friday to make a four-day weekend, during which they may travel long distances to visit family and friends.

The holiday dates back to 1621, the year after the Puritans arrived in Massachusetts, determined to practice their dissenting religion without interference. After a rough winter, in which about half of them died, they turned for help to neighboring Indians, who taught them how to plant corn and other crops. The next fall's bountiful harvest inspired the Pilgrims to give thanks by holding a feast.

The Thanksgiving feast became a national tradition — not only because so many other Americans have found prosperity but also because the Pilgrims' sacrifices for their freedom still captivate the imagination.

To this day, Thanksgiving dinner almost always includes some of the foods served at the first feast: roast turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes, pumpkin pie. Before the meal begins, families or friends usually pause to give thanks for their blessings, including the joy of being united for the occasion.

President George W. Bush is joined by Lynn Nutt of Springfield, Mo., as he poses with “Flyer” the turkey during a ceremony Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2006 in the White House Rose Garden, following the President’s pardoning of the turkey before the Thanksgiving holiday. White House photo by Paul Morse

President George W. Bush stands between Paul Hill, left, of the National Turkey Federation, and his son, Nathan Hill during the pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2008, in the Rose Garden of the White House. This year marked the 61st anniversary of the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation and Pardoning. White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

President George W. Bush waves farewell to invited guests as a grateful “Flyer” the turkey watches Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2006 from the White House Rose Garden, following the President’s pardoning of the turkey before the Thanksgiving holiday. White House photo by Paul Morse

Young members of the Rose Garden audience gather around Pumpkin, the National Thanksgiving Turkey, after it was officially pardoned by President George W. Bush during festivities Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2008, at the White House. White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian


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Texts are prepared by the U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Germany and abridged from the U.S. Department of State IIP publications and other U.S. government materials.

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