Thanksgiving Day: Date, History, Activities, Recipes & Quotes

July 13, 2022 5 min read

Thanksgiving is a national holiday observed in the United States, Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia on various dates. It started as a day of thanksgiving for the blessings of the harvest and the previous year. Festival holidays with similar names will take place in Germany and Japan.

1. What is the Date Of Thanksgiving? 

Thanksgiving Day is observed in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November, as mandated by a joint resolution passed by Congress in 1941 and a proclamation issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942.

2. History of Thanksgiving

The annual Thanksgiving holiday custom in the United States dates back to 1619, in what is now known as the Commonwealth of Virginia. On December 4, 1619, thirty-eight English settlers aboard the ship Margaret arrived by way of the James River at Berkeley Hundred in Charles City County, Virginia. The landing was promptly followed by a religious celebration, as required by the London Company's charter for the group. "The day of our ship's arrival at the spot allotted for plantation in the province of Virginia should be yearly and permanently kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God," the charter stated.

In the Civil Era, President Lincoln declared a national Thanksgiving Day in 1863, to be observed on November 26 — the month's final Thursday. The proclamation was written by Secretary of State William H. Seward and read in part:

“In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, the order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theater of military conflict.     

“I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

The U.S. has observed Thanksgiving ever since.

Future presidents followed Lincoln's lead and declared Thanksgiving to be held on the fourth Thursday of November each year. However, in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday of November to be Thanksgiving, rather than the fifth. FDR reasoned that an earlier Thanksgiving would give businesses more time to sell items before Christmas, aiding the country's recovery from the Great Depression. A 1942 law declaring the fourth Thursday of each year a federal holiday has remained in effect ever since.

3. Activities On Thanksgiving

Volunteer

Invite the family to join you in serving the community by helping at a local shelter before sitting down to a pleasant warm lunch at home. It's a wonderful way to help others who are less fortunate, and it allows the entire family to participate.

Bake a pie

Pies are a traditional Thanksgiving dish. You can't go wrong with pecan, pumpkin, apple, or cherry. Preheat the oven, put on an apron, and get to work!

Start a take-out tradition

A Thanksgiving meal might take hours to prepare. Many places offer Thanksgiving feasts. Alternatively, start a new tradition by ordering take-out! It may be the Chinese restaurant down the block, Indian cuisine, or your favorite pizza joint. And don't forget to tip! The theme of the day is gratitude.

4. Recipes For Thanksgiving

Perfect Turkey

A juicy and nicely seasoned turkey. My French friend showed me how to cook the turkey this way, however, she never measures anything, so use your own discretion with the vegetables.

Truly Delicious Brussels Sprouts

If you believe you don't like Brussels sprouts, try this dish and learn the cooking technique that makes them delicious.

Classic Turkey Giblet Gravy

Here's a tried-and-true recipe for silky-smooth, deeply flavorful gravy that will have your guests praising you! It serves enough for the table and any leftover turkey. If giblets are used

Best Green Bean Casserole

This delicious twist on traditional green bean casserole features French fried onions and Cheddar cheese on top.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

You may make these ahead of time and keep them in the fridge for several days. Allow 30 minutes to stand before baking if baking cold.

Gourmet Sweet Potato Classic

You'll never go back to the marshmallow-topped variety after tasting this! I peeled and microwaved the sweet potatoes, as well as boiled them.

Awesome Sausage, Apple, and Cranberry Stuffing

Stuffing of turkey sausage, spices, and fruit that is both savory and sweet.

Dry Brine Turkey

Dry brining is the simplest technique to prepare a moist and tasty turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Plan ahead of time; the best flavor will take a few days.

Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake

This pumpkin cheesecake has a gingersnap crust and is delicious. The gingersnap truly makes a difference.

Loaded Baked Potato Tot Waffle

Because the fat is flavoring the waffles, look for high-quality, smoked deli bacon.

Miso-y Grilled Potatoes

Brad Leone’s go-to charred, smashed, and miso-garlic-butter–tossed grilled potatoes.

Gravy Mayo

Using chilled gravy is important. If the gravy isn’t solidified, the mayo will be runny. This recipe comes from Turkey & the Wolf in New Orleans, our Best New Restaurant in America 2017.

Extra-Buttery Mashed Potatoes

For this mashed potato recipe, drying the cooked potatoes in the pan means that they'll absorb that much more flavor from your herb-infused dairy. Don't skip this step!

Celery, Green Bean, and Tofu Salad with Chile Crisp

If you have a batch of our Chile Crisp at the ready, you can make this summary, no-fuss pantry salad in just 5 minutes.

Grilled Vinegar Turkey With Chiles and Rosemary

Our Thanksgiving 2020 cover star turkey is grilled and topped with a zippy chile-spiked vinegar sauce.

Honeynut Squash with Radicchio and Miso

What’s a honeynut squash, you ask? It looks like a miniature butternut squash and has sweet, firm flesh that stands up to any cooking method.

5. Best Thanksgiving Quotes

Lionel Hampton

"Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind."

Rumi

"Wear gratitude like a cloak, and it will feed every corner of your life."

Maya Angelou

"Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer."

Oprah Winfrey

"True forgiveness is when you can say, 'Thank you for that experience.'"

Will Arnett

"I am happy because I'm grateful. I choose to be grateful. That gratitude allows me to be happy."

Roy T. Bennett

"Be thankful for everything that happens in your life; it’s all an experience."

Lindsey Bareham

“Good mashed potato is one of the great luxuries of life.”

Nora Ephron

“The turkey. The sweet potatoes. The stuffing. The pumpkin pie. Is there anything else we all can agree so vehemently about? I don’t think so.”

Rick Riordan

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the eons, it’s that you can’t give up on your family, no matter how tempting they make it.”

Jonathan Safran Foer

"Thanksgiving is the meal we aspire for other meals to resemble."

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