A First-timer’s Guide to Celebrating Thanksgiving in America

Once the last of the Halloween candy has been consumed, Americans have another food on their minds: turkey! On Thursday, November 22, many Americans will gather together with family and friends to give thanks for their blessings, and a turkey is the star of the show. If you’ve recently moved to American to learn English, here’s what you should know to celebrate your first Thanksgiving here.

History of Thanksgiving

A person cutting into a pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving

The first unofficial Thanksgiving feast took place in October 1621, when colonists invited Native Americans to join them for a three-day feast as a way to give thanks. Thanksgiving didn’t become an official U.S. holiday until the 19th century. Sarah Joseph Hale, the editor of a popular women’s colonial magazine, wrote letters to five U.S. Presidents asking for their support in establishing the holiday. Abraham Lincoln listened, and the first “official” Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1863.

Thanksgiving Traditions

The biggest Thanksgiving tradition, of course, is the turkey, which has been eaten on Thanksgiving since before it was an official holiday. Alexander Hamilton announced it as the food of the day in the early 19th century by exclaiming that no American should “refrain from turkey” on this special day.

Some lucky turkeys don’t make it to the dinner table, thanks to another American tradition. Before 1987, it was customary for U.S. presidents to receive a turkey for the holiday, but President Reagan “pardoned” his turkey that year by opting not to eat it. Each president has pardoned his turkey in the years since.

Although it takes place in New York City, people across the entire country tune their televisions to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thanksgiving morning. The parade features festive floats, massive helium balloons shaped like cartoon characters, and talented performers from across the country. Watching the parade in person is a must-do for every New Yorker!

How You Can Celebrate

Thanksgiving is a day for those living in America to celebrate their many blessings in whichever way they choose. Some spend the week visiting family. Others volunteer at soup kitchens and homeless shelters. People without family nearby often gather for “Friendsgiving” feasts. Whatever your plans, the staff at ALCC American Language wishes you a happy Thanksgiving and a safe holiday break! If you have questions about online registration or the courses we offer, please reach out or call us at (212) 736-2373 and we’ll be in touch shortly.

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