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History of Thanksgiving at Plymouth


In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.

Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.

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THANKSGIVING DAY – Fourth Thursday in NovemberThanksgiving Day Fourth Thursday in November


THANKSGIVING DAY

Thanksgiving Day is celebrated each year in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November.

In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.

OBSERVE 

In many American households, the Thanksgiving celebration has lost much of its original religious significance; instead, it now centers on cooking and sharing a bountiful meal with family and friends. Turkey, a Thanksgiving staple so ubiquitous it has become all but synonymous with the holiday, may or may not have been on offer when the Pilgrims hosted the inaugural feast in 1621. Today, however, nearly 90 percent of Americans eat the bird—whether roasted, baked or deep-fried—on Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation. Other traditional foods include stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Volunteering is a common Thanksgiving Day activity, and communities often hold food drives and host free dinners for the less fortunate.

Parades have also become an integral part of the holiday in cities and towns across the United States. Presented by Macy’s department store since 1924, New York City’s Thanksgiving Day parade is the largest and most famous, attracting some 2 to 3 million spectators along its 2.5-mile route and drawing an enormous television audience. It typically features marching bands, performers, elaborate floats conveying various celebrities and giant balloons shaped like cartoon characters.

Beginning in the mid-20th century and perhaps even earlier, the president of the United States has “pardoned” one or two Thanksgiving turkeys each year, sparing the birds from slaughter and sending them to a farm for retirement. A number of U.S. governors also perform the annual turkey pardoning ritual.
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DATES

November 24, 2016

November 23, 2017

November 22, 2018

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade


Thanksgiving Day means homes filled with the scent of roasting turkey and warming pies, family and friends gathering to feast (and maybe argue over politics) and, of course, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But how much do the expected 50 million television viewers and 3.5 million paradegoers know about this tradition, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year?

Not much, according to Stephen Silverman, author of the recently released Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: A New York City Holiday Tradition, although he calls the parade as “traditional as a turkey in the oven.” So before you tune in for the three-hour event or head into the city to see the parade up close and personal, here are some fun facts and milestones about the spectacle that has ushered in the holiday season across America for close to a  century.


The idea for a holiday parade actually started with the workers of Macy’s, many of whom were immigrants and wanted to “show their gratitude for being in America,” explained Silverman, whose book showcases contemporary photos by Matt Harnick and some dreamy vintage prints from the Macy’s archives. Though these workers’ original idea was to create more of a holiday market or street fair akin to holiday traditions in their native Europe, the first parade in 1924 started a brand-new Thanksgiving tradition in America. Today, hundreds of Macy’s employees and volunteers are still integral to running the show, said parade executive producer Amy Kule: “The clowns and balloon handlers that you see, the majority are Macy’s employees.” And the lucky children who get to ride on the floats? “Most are kids of employees,” Kule said.
90th anniversary?

Though this year marks 90 parades, it’s not 90 parades in a row. The Macy’s parade started in 1924 but was put on hold during World War II, when commodities like helium and rubber were in short supply (Macy’s actually donated the rubber balloons to the war effort). However, the year the parade returned, after the Allied victory, the parade’s crowd actually doubled in size. “It represented home,” Silverman said. And in the years after the war, two of the parade’s big claims to fame came along: In 1947, the parade had a starring role in the classic holiday movie Miracle on 34th Street, and in 1948 it was televised nationally for the first time.

Actor Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle greets actress Natalie


Actor Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle greets actress Natalie Wood in a scene from the 1947 film “Miracle on 34th Street.” (Photo: AP Photo/Fox Home Entertainment)

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