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Thanksgiving History and Significance Essay

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Updated: Nov 25th, 2019


Thanksgiving is a day celebrated in the United States every year. The tradition of Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States can be traced back to the year 1863. Important to note is that Thanksgiving Day is a public holiday in the United States which is celebrated every year in November, (usually the fourth week of that month) and ” it is a big deal in America because Americans believe it to be the unique holiday, hardly found in this form anywhere else on earth” (Baker 1). This holiday is celebrated with a lot of merrymaking and communal

Thanksgiving as it is the day celebrated with an aim of showing gratitude for all the great things that life has given to a person, for example, family, friends, positive feelings and emotions. In an argument advanced by Bradford, “children should be enlightened on the importance of Thanksgiving so that it can be easy to preserve and pass the tradition to the present and future generation” (144). Even though Thanksgiving is often referred to as the harvest festival, it is something more than what it seems to suggest at first sight.


Thanksgiving Day was created by people, who were religious people that were running away from persecution in England; they were referred to as pilgrims. Initially, the pilgrims went to settle in the Netherlands, but later, they went to the North America for the purposes of setting up a colony.

Most of the pilgrims arrived in North America in the year 1620 at a time when the autumn season was welcoming the winter season. As Snow says, for them it was “a day of prayer and meditation, not necessry connected with a harvest or a feast. It was a special day of religious observance to acknowledge an act of God’s benevolence” (108). Unfortunately, a big number of the pilgrims died in the North America due to the cold weather they encountered.

The pilgrims began to engage in farming activities during the spring season. During their short stay in the North America, the native Indians assisted the pilgrims by means of guiding them on how to do farming, and also how to cook.

By the end of the summer season, the pilgrims had managed to get a bumper harvest and as such, they were able to store enough food to last out to the winter season . Following the good harvest, the pilgrims decided to organize a festival for the purposes of showing their gratitude to God for the good harvest they got.


Throughout the existence of mankind, the greatest happiness emanates from contentment of the individual. As such, it is always prudent for an individual to show his or her gratitude especially to those who in one way or another enabled this or that person to achieve what they were eager to achieve.

Needless to say, the foregoing principle forms the basis of Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States. During Thanksgiving, people celebrate and honor those who forfeited their own interests for the sake of others. The sacrifice made by the native Indian Americans is, therefore, celebrated and honored during the celebration of Thanksgiving. The United States sacrificed their land and gave up their culture for the greater interest of the nation.

Appreciating people is a simple and yet very powerful way of encouraging people for them to continue making more sacrifices and doing what is best for the sake of others. What is more, appreciating others through Thanksgiving presupposes a clear and loud message that the sacrifice made is recognized by the person it was meant for, and that it was satisfactory. “After all, the phrase thank you is cited as a virtual that is above all other virtues in the universe” (Weaver & Gollust 37).

Unlike in the traditional connotation of Thanksgiving, when people were grateful to God for a good harvest, the festival today, which is now celebrated across different countries all over the world, has a bit different meaning; on this day some families, priests, etc. visit the less fortunate and share with them what they have in plenty.

This gesture assures the less fortunate that there are people of good will who do care about them. Some of the significant features of Thanksgiving include family bonding, sharing and cooking meals, festive traditions as well as family values; it is also the dat symbolyzing the meaning of life, and above all a thanksgiving day.

Significance of Thanksgiving

As has been mentioned above, one of the most important aims of Thanksgiving festival is to create bonding between the members of one family. During the celebrations family members come together and strengthen their relationship as a family. Children are taught the values and traditions of the family as well as they are taught to respect the elders in the family and in the society, in general.

In other words, the concept of unity is emphasized during Thanksgiving. Family members, who do not stay around, travel long distances to reunite with other members of their families in order to enjoy the reunion of the family by means of sharing delicious food, praying together, singing and having other fun activities.

Thanksgiving is also the time when family’s friends and relatives share recipi and cook meals for each other at home, which is unlike during other celebrations when usually the packed food is served. Some of the traditional dishes prepared during Thanksgiving celebrations include sweet potatoes, corns, pie made out of pumpkin, cranberries, carved turkeys, to mention but a few. Generally, Thanksgiving is regarded as a period that spices up the holiday mood before Christmas.

It goes without saying that during Thanksgiving, food stores register the highest sales in comparison with any other period of the year. This holiday also caracterizes American culture. As Wallendorf and Arnould provide, ” Thanksgiving Day is a collective ritual that celebrates material abundance enacted through feasting” (13). This may be attributed to the fact that most people buy food stuff with an aim of giving it to others, namely, whom they care about, to those people they appreciate, or in case they simply want to help the needy.

In addition, Thanksgiving gives an opportunity for people to do charity and participate in religious ceremonies. Families, friends, and colleagues come together to sing songs and make prayers of Thanksgiving to God. “Prayer of Thanksgiving” is one of the songs that are commonly sung during Thanksgiving celebrations” (Bradford 145).

Some Americans make contributions during Thanksgiving which they give to the less fortunate individuals in the society. The poor, homeless, and the less fortunate members of the society are provided with clothes and food by some churches.

In an argument by Weaver & Gollust, “Thanksgiving is also an opportunity to show appreciation which is often done by give the family members and friends some presents” (43). This day is celebrated by most people in the United States in order to show their respect and appreciation to their colleagues at work, friends, elders, as wells as siblings.

“Some of the common presents given out during the Thanksgiving Day include: Jewellery, Thanksgiving flowers, wine, and cookies to mention but a few. It has been contended that the celebrations of Thanksgiving Day in the United States mark the commencement of the Christmas period” (Weaver & Gollust 42).

“In our day to day lives there are many problems and challenges that we encounter and such challenges and problems destructs the lives of people to the extent that there seems to be nothing worthwhile or good in life. Some of these issues may include unemployment, health problems, and many others” (Karter 36).

Thanksgiving is one of the events that reminds such individuals that there is hope, that there is a brighter side of life, such as loved ones, friends, along with other great things that life has to offer. Indeed, there are very few opportunities where an individual gets a chance to have quality time with his or her family. This opportunity is offered by Thanksgiving at least once a year.


Since 1863 the United States has been celebrating Thanksgiving every year. As a national holiday, Thanksgiving emanated from a declaration by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 that November 4th of that year would be a thanksgiving day for the whole nation. The celebrations of this day or the inception of Thanksgiving Day by president Abraham Lincoln was intended to celebrate unity in the United States, as the country was undergoing civil war at the time.

Today, however, Thanksgiving is a festival where people celebrate and honor those who forfeited their own interests for the sake of others. The significance of thanksgiving days includes the moment when family members come together and strengthen their relationship as a family; it is also an opportunity for individuals to help and share what they have with the less fortunate in the society, and above all, it is an opportunity to show gratitude to those who sacrificed their interests for the benefit of others.

Works Cited

Baker, James W. Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday. Lebanon: University of Hampshire Press, 2009. Print.

Bradford, Edward. History of Plymouth Plantation. Harvard: Little, Brown and Company. 1856. Print.

Karter, Diana. Thanksgiving: An American holiday, an American history. Indiana: Indiana University press, 2004. Print.

Snow, Stephen Eddy. Performing the Pilgrims: A Study of Ethnohistorical Role-Playing at Plimoth Plantation. Mississippi: Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2008. Print.

Wallendorf, Melanie and, Eric J. Arnould. “We Gather Together”: Consumption Rituals of Thanksgiving Day”. Journal of Consumer Research. 18.1 (1991): 13-24. Print.

Weaver, Carolyn & Shelly, Gollust. “History & Lore.” The History of Thanksgiving 12.2 (2012): 23-45. Print.

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IvyPanda. "Thanksgiving History and Significance." November 25, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/thanksgiving-2/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Thanksgiving History and Significance." November 25, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/thanksgiving-2/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Thanksgiving History and Significance'. 25 November.

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