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Updated: November 26, 2012 16:39 IST

Holiday of gratitude

RACHNA CHHABRIA
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Traditional: The dinner. Photo: AP
Traditional: The dinner. Photo: AP

November 22 was celebrated as Thanksgiving in North America. It is a day set aside to show gratitude for one’s material and spiritual possessions.

Holidays are a favourite with all, young and old alike. They have a universal appeal everywhere, be it in India or elsewhere in the world. Just like we wait for Diwali and Holi, our two main festivals where we can indulge in food (especially sweets) burst crackers and play with colours to our heart’s content. Thanksgiving — the traditional North American holiday is eagerly awaited in the country by all the people, young and old, rich and poor alike.

Celebrated at the end of the harvest season it’s a kind of harvest festival without any religious or symbolic significance attached to it. It is a secular holiday.

The origin of Thanksgiving can be attributed to the harvest festivals that are celebrated in many cultures across the world down the ages. Harvest is the time to thank nature for the bounties and blessings showered upon humankind. It is a time of gratitude.

There are mentions of the earliest Thanksgiving being celebrated on September 8, 1565 in what is now Saint Augustine, Florida, U.S. But going by research the first Thanksgiving occurred in a Plymouth plantation in 1621 between the Plymouth pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe.

The holiday stems from the feast held in the autumn of 1621 to celebrate the first successful harvest by the pilgrim party and members of the tribe.

Holiday season

Nowadays Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and the fourth Thursday of November in the U.S. The period from Thanksgiving to New Year is called the holiday season. Most families host get-togethers and reunions at this time and celebrate by having a traditional turkey dinner and pumpkin pies. Games are played and theme parties are held.

In 2001, the U.S Postal Service issued a commemorative Thanksgiving stamp designed by artist Margaret Cusack in a style that resembled traditional folk art needle work. The design depicted a cornucopia with fruits and vegetables under the phrase “We give Thanks”.

This year, Thanksgiving was on November 22. This date, the fourth Thursday of November was set by President Franklin D Roosevelt in 1939 and was approved by the Congress in 1941, and made an official National Holiday in the same year.

Earlier it was the last Thursday of November as designated by former President Abraham Lincoln. But sometimes, the last Thursday would turn out to be the fifth Thursday of the month. Falling too close to Christmas it left the business establishments even less than a month’s time to cope with two big festivals. So it was decided that the fourth Thursday would provide respite to all and give a break until Christmas.

Thanksgiving is an annual American Federal Holiday. It’s the day to express thanks for one’s material and spiritual possessions.

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