The Other November Celebration

Published: 01/11/2022 By Allan Fuller

If you hear fireworks on the 24th November it is not leftovers from the 5th, it is Americans here celebrating Thanksgiving. 

Thanksgiving is a  holiday in the United States, on the fourth Thursday of November. It originated as a day of thanksgiving and harvest festival, with the theme of the holiday revolving around giving thanks and the centrepiece of Thanksgiving celebrations remaining a Thanksgiving dinner. This traditionally consists of foods and dishes indigenous to the Americas, namely turkey, potatoes (usually mashed or sweet), stuffing, squash, corn (maize), green beans, cranberries (typically in sauce form), and pumpkin pie. 

Other Thanksgiving customs include charitable organizations offering Thanksgiving dinner for the poor, attending religious services, watching parades, and viewing football games. In America Thanksgiving is regarded as the beginning of the fall–winter holiday season, which includes Christmas and the New Year.

New England and Virginia colonists originally celebrated days of fasting, as well as days of thanksgiving, thanking God for blessings such as harvests, ship landings, military victories, or the end of a drought. These were observed through church services, accompanied with feasts and other communal gatherings. 

The event that Americans commonly call the "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. This feast lasted three days and was attended by 90 Wampanoag Native American people and 53 Pilgrims (survivors of the Mayflower). 

Less widely known is an earlier Thanksgiving celebration in Virginia in 1619 by English settlers who had just landed at Berkeley Hundred aboard the ship Margaret.

Image: The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Virginia, oil on canvas, by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, 1914