Thanksgiving is an American holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. This year, Thanksgiving falls on November 25. On this day, people gather with their families for a special dinner and give thanks for the good things in their lives. While Christians give thanks to God on this day, it is celebrated by non-Christians as well.

Traditionally, the first Thanksgiving is believed to have been a harvest celebration of English settlers in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. These settlers, also called Pilgrims, were thankful to have survived in their new home with the help of Native Americans who taught them how to grow local crops like corn.

The Thanksgiving dinner is a very traditional meal that usually includes turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potatoes,  pumpkin pie, and more. All of these foods are native to the U.S. and were new to the Pilgrims and other early European settlers.

Many people travel to spend the Thanksgiving weekend with family, so schools (like IEI) and some businesses are closed both Thanksgiving and the following day. Other traditional events of Thanksgiving weekend include professional and college football game (especially major rivalries) and the beginning of Christmas shopping. Stores have huge sales on “Black Friday”, the day after Thanksgiving, opening before dawn to large crowds of deal-seeking shoppers.

Before closing November 25-26 for Thanksgiving, IEI staff and teachers will host a party on Wednesday, November 24 to share the holiday’s traditional meal and fellowship with students.

Many other countries have harvest festivals or other holidays similar to Thanksgiving. Please tell us about your traditions in the comments!

(Photo credit: Chef Jess PhD