You’ve definitely heard of Thanksgiving from many American movies and books. What some parts of the world know as a harvest festival and not a very spectacular holiday, is a big and pompous celebration in the US and Canada. In these countries, it’s one of the most important holidays of the year. In this article, we’ll show you what makes Thanksgiving unique, how it’s traditionally celebrated, what the differences are between the US and Canada and what Black Friday and Cyber Monday are all about.
Let’s get started!
The Meaning of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving dates to the 17th century. The pilgrims in Massachusetts celebrated a harvest festival with the indigenous peoples for several days. This was meant to be a thank-you to the indigenous people, as the pilgrims probably wouldn’t have survived the winter without them. Although there are many other traditions, Americans, as well as Canadians, celebrate Thanksgiving based on this event. During the 18th century, North American colonists brought the holiday to Canada during the War of Independence. Today, Thanksgiving is still celebrated to express gratitude for a successful harvest.
When is Thanksgiving Celebrated?
In the US, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November every year as a public holiday. It’s observed on a different day in Canada; here, the harvest festival is also a holiday. However, it’s on the second Monday of October, making it an extended weekend. Americans don’t want to miss an extended weekend either and take the Friday after Thanksgiving off if possible.
Traditionally, the entire family gathers for one of the most important celebrations of the year. This often involves several generations and relatives from far away. Meanwhile, many people also celebrate the holiday as Friendsgiving. For this version of Thanksgiving, they invite friends and acquaintances. There are various reasons for this: Either they cannot join their families, or they simply don’t want to see all their relatives.
There is also a tradition of breaking the so-called Wishbones after eating dinner. This involves two relatives grabbing the turkey’s fork leg and pulling on it until it breaks; the person who holds the bigger piece in the end gets to make a wish. Alternatively, there are even plastic bones available in shops, so vegetarians and vegans can participate in this custom as well.
American Football is also part of Thanksgiving for many. Various NFL matches are on television the entire day long. If football isn’t playing in the background, then it’s probable that the New York City Thanksgiving Day parade is. It’s broadcasted on TV for hours and is an important part of the holiday’s agenda.
Regardless of whether people celebrate with friends or with family, with football or parades, one thing is certain: there will certainly be a traditional Thanksgiving dinner! This includes various side dishes and, most importantly, the Thanksgiving turkey. The large bird is elaborately filled with cornbread, herbs, maroons, apples or bacon. It’s the main course of the meal. Did you know that about 50 million turkeys get eaten on Thanksgiving every year? That’s crazy, isn’t it?
In addition to the slow-cooked turkey, people usually serve sweet potatoes, pies, pumpkin, peas, beans, and a usually homemade cranberry sauce as side dishes. Today, traditional food is still important to Americans and Canadians, but vegetarian and modern dishes are becoming more and more popular as well. For dessert, pumpkin pie is the star of the show. As an alternative, Americans bake apple, cranberry, or pecan cakes. Some families say grace before dinner to express gratitude for the blessings of the earth.
Additionally, Thanksgiving dinner isn’t complete without drinks. Whether it’s autumn cocktails with cider and cinnamon or beer or wine, everything pairs well with the food here.
There are regional variations in all delicacies. Every US state, as well as Canada, has their own traditional specialties, regardless of, for example, the vegetables that are in season in a particular region.
Blackout Wednesday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday
If you’re wondering what the words Black Friday and Cyber Monday mean, we’ll explain. For most Americans, the entire Thanksgiving spectacle already begins on Blackout Wednesday. It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving when people have a few drinks and start off the holiday season. Especially among students, it’s a popular occasion to go all out and have one too many drinks.
The day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday. As you know, many Americans take the day off to have an extended weekend with their families. But that’s not all: Black Friday kicks off the Christmas shopping season. Numerous stores offer discounts, and large shopping malls attract customers. Meanwhile, the phenomenon has made its way to Europe as well. There are also good deals online on Black Friday, so if you’d like to save some money on Christmas gifts, you may want to remember the date. After the sales event, it’s the weekend, when families like spending time together and enjoying the leftovers from the lavish Thanksgiving dinner.
After the weekend, there’s another highlight for people who love shopping: Cyber Monday. It was created by local retailers as an online version of Black Friday. In other parts of the world, Cyber Monday is less popular, but you can expect sales and discounts at international online stores and mail order companies on the day after Thanksgiving. So, it’s a good idea to plan your purchases for the holiday season as early as possible.
Thanksgiving is an important holiday in the US, as well as in Canada. Although it’s on different dates in these two countries, it’s a grand celebration. Of course, turkey and pumpkin pie are a must, just like football and family time. The days following Thanksgiving are reserved for shopping – Black Friday and Cyber Monday are for getting the best deals. There’s no doubt Thanksgiving is an important holiday for Americans! Perhaps you will also get the chance to spend this season of gratitude in the US or Canada one day. It’s definitely a memorable experience! Happy Thanksgiving!