Thanksgiving Day is a holiday that gives Americans time to give thanks, enjoy gatherings of family and friends, and join in holiday meals. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of each November.
In 1620, the Pilgrims sailed from England in search of a place where they could worship as they pleased. They sailed from Plymouth, England, on a ship called the Mayflower. They landed near what is now Cape Cod, Massachusetts. There they started a settlement they named Plymouth.
In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims gathered their first harvest. William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Colony, decided they should have a celebration so that the people could “rejoice together” to give thanks to God. He invited the nearby Wampanoag Indians to join the Pilgrims for a festival that lasted for three days. This is what many people today think of as the first Thanksgiving. However, people from Europe may have had earlier thanksgiving celebrations in other parts of North America. Many Native American peoples also had celebrations that gave thanks for a good harvest.
Thanksgiving became a national holiday in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November as “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.”