Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, has been an annual tradition in the United States since 1863, when during the
Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26.
The event that Americans commonly call the "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated to give thanks to God for helping the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony
survive their first brutal winter in New England. The first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days, providing enough food for 53 pilgrims and 90
Native Americans. The feast consisted of fish (cod, eels, and bass) and shellfish (clams, lobster, and mussels), wild fowl (ducks, geese, swans, and turkey),
venison, berries and fruit, vegetables (peas, pumpkin, beetroot and possibly, wild or cultivated onion), harvest grains (barley and wheat), and
the Three Sisters: beans, dried Indian maize or corn, and squash. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating
"Thanksgivings"ódays of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.
During the American Revolutionary War the Continental Congress appointed one or more thanksgiving days each year, each time recommending to the
executives of the various states the observance of these days in their states. The First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving was given by the
Continental Congress in 1777.
George Washington, leader of the revolutionary forces in the American Revolutionary War, proclaimed a Thanksgiving in December 1777 as a
victory celebration honoring the defeat of the British at Saratoga.
President George Washington made a Thanksgiving proclamation and created the first Thanksgiving Day designated by the national
government of the United States of America on October 3, 1789, and again proclaimed a Thanksgiving in 1795.
President John Adams declared Thanksgivings in 1798 and 1799. No Thanksgiving proclamations were issued by Thomas Jefferson but renewed the
tradition in 1814, in response to resolutions of Congress, at the close of the War of 1812. Madison also declared the holiday twice in 1815;
however, none of these were celebrated in autumn. In 1816, Governor Plumer of New Hampshire appointed Thursday, November 14 to be observed as
a day of Public Thanksgiving and Governor Brooks of Massachusetts appointed Thursday, November 28 to be "observed throughout that State as a
day of Thanksgiving."
In the middle of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln, prompted by a series of editorials written by Sarah Josepha Hale, proclaimed a
national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November 1863.
Abraham Lincoln's successors as president followed his example of annually declaring the final Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt broke with Lincoln's tradition in 1939. In that year November had five Thursdays that year (instead of the usual four), and Roosevelt declared the
fourth Thursday as Thanksgiving rather than the fifth one. Although many popular histories state otherwise, he made clear that his plan was to establish
the holiday on the next-to-last Thursday in the month instead of the last one. With the country still in the midst of The Great Depression, Roosevelt
thought an earlier Thanksgiving would give merchants a longer period to sell goods before Christmas. Increasing profits and spending during this period,
Roosevelt hoped, would help bring the country out of the Depression. At the time, advertising goods for Christmas before Thanksgiving was considered
inappropriate. Fred Lazarus, Jr., founder of the Federated Department Stores (later Macy's), is credited with convincing Roosevelt to push Thanksgiving
back a week to expand the shopping season
Since 1947 the National Turkey Federation has presented the President of the United States with one live turkey and two dressed turkeys, in a ceremony known as the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation. The live turkey is pardoned and lives out the rest of its days on a nearby peaceful farm. While it is commonly held that this pardoning tradition began with Harry Truman in 1947, the Truman Library has shown no evidence for this. The earliest on record is with George H. W. Bush in 1989. Still others claim that the tradition dates back to Abraham Lincoln pardoning his son's pet turkey. Both stories have been quoted in more recent presidential speeches. In more recent years, two turkeys have been pardoned, in case the original turkey becomes unavailable for presidential pardoning