Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Day, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, at the end of the harvest season, is an annual American holiday to express thanks for one’s material and spiritual possessions. The period from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day often is called the holiday season. Most people celebrate by gathering at home with family or friends for a holiday feast. Though the holiday’s origins can be traced to harvest festivals that have been celebrated in many cultures since ancient times the American holiday has religious undertones related to the deliverance of the English settlers by Native Americans after the brutal winter at Plymouth, Massachusetts.
In the United States, certain kinds of food are traditionally served at Thanksgiving meals. First and foremost, baked or roasted turkey is usually the featured item on any Thanksgiving feast table (so much so that Thanksgiving is sometimes referred to as “Turkey Day”). Stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, other fall vegetables, and pumpkin pie are commonly associated with Thanksgiving dinner. All of these primary dishes are actually native to the Americas or were introduced as a new food source to the Europeans when they arrived.
Thanksgiving was originally a religious observance for all the members of the community to give thanks. The tradition of giving thanks is continued today in various forms. In celebrations at home, it is a holiday tradition in many families to begin the Thanksgiving dinner by saying grace. Found in diverse traditions, grace is a prayer before or after a meal to express appreciation, to be thankful for blessings, or in some philosophies, to express an altruistic wish or dedication.