When is Thanksgiving 2021? Date of Canadian and US holiday, meaning of the celebration and food traditions

Canada and the US celebrate Thanksgiving on different days, in different months

While the UK is beginning to prepare for the festive season, the US has another famous holiday before they hear the sleigh bells jingling.

Thanksgiving is arguably the biggest holiday of the US calendar, celebrated across every state and involving some of the lengthiest cross-country drives for families across the States.

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The holiday, first recognised in the mid-1800s, is less about the present giving and more about, you guessed it, giving thanks.

Neighbours, relatives and friends come together in homes across the US, feasting on Turkey and Pumpkin Pie, and showing gratitude for their health, happiness and those around them.

So, why do Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, does anywhere else celebrate too - and how is it celebrated? This is what you need to know.

When is Thanksgiving in 2021?

This year, Thanksgiving takes place in the US on Thursday 25 November 2021.

Americans celebrate the holiday on the fourth Monday of November every year.

The day is also celebrated in Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia.

Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October, as that is when the Canadian harvest would be complete.

Therefore, Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on Monday 11 October in 2021.

How did Thanksgiving start?

Thanksgiving originated as a harvest festival, with a huge feast being the centrepiece of celebrations.

The ‘First Thanksgiving’ is thought to originate from when the pilgrims hosted a celebratory feast after their first successful harvest in 1621.

The Wampanoag, a North American Indian tribe, called a truce with the pilgrims who had settled on their land in 1620.

The 1621 celebration is believed to be the first shared feast since an end to unrest between the two groups.

What food was typical on Thanksgiving?

In the early days of Thanksgiving, Americans would spend days praying and feasting on the produce which was harvested, as a way of appreciating the successful year for crops and agriculture.

It is unlikely that the feast would have consisted of decadent desserts 400 years ago, instead they would have feasted on the likes of corn, venison and porridge as this was the most common and abundant harvest and game available.

What foods are served at a modern-day Thanksgiving dinner?

Today, Thanksgiving is synonymous with huge Turkey dinners, mash potatoes, macaroni cheese, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies for dessert.

Well-known writer Sarah Josepha Buell Hale - also known as the ‘Godmother of Thanksgiving’ - campaigned to have thanksgiving made into a national day of celebration, and according to Time Magazine, she published recipes of turkey dinners, stuffing and pumpkin pie in the 1800s.

Thanksgiving dinner is served up with Turkey, potatoes, pumpkin, stuffing and all the trimmings (Picture: Shutterstock)

Turkey is thought to be included in the dinner as it is native to North America, and its size makes it perfect for large feasts.

Pumpkins, which are ready to be picked between September and November are also native to North America, making them the perfect sweet pie filling to enjoy at Thanksgiving.

It also helps to use up the abundance of pumpkins which grow in time for Halloween, as many will ripen right around mid-November.

When did Thanksgiving become a national holiday?

While Thanksgiving dinners and the traditions of the holiday date back to the 1600s, the it was President Abraham Lincoln who proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving in 1863.

He marked it as a national celebration and all presidents who succeeded followed suit.

George W. Bush pets the pardoned turkey at the annual Pardoning event at the White House (Picture: Getty Images)

Then, in 1941, the Congress proclaimed it a national holiday and president of the day Franklin D. Roosevelt formalised the fourth Thursday of November the official holiday, meaning the actual date of Thanksgiving celebrations changes every year.

How do Americans celebrate nowadays?

Nowadays, thanksgiving is celebrated with parades, families travelling across states to be together and enjoy TV marathons and sumptuous dinners.

Despite the traditions beginning as a religious, inherited festival, all nationalities, ethnicity and religions join in the celebrations.

As well as the food, Americans travel the length and breadth of the states to be with family. People travel for this national holiday more so than for Christmas, according to an AAA survey.

The 93rd Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade kicks off on November 28, 2019 in New York (Picture: Getty Images)

The annual Macy’s parade is also televised, with over 20 million viewers watching the three hour long parade and over 40 million tuning in at some point during the procession.

The Hallmark Channel float at the 94th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 26, 2020 in New York City (Picture: Getty Images)

Gift giving is spared from the occasion, as thanksgiving isn’t akin to the materialistic giving-to-receive commercialisation Christmas has become.