Thanksgiving in the United States Explained

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Most of us know we get a couple days off from school thanks to Thanksgiving, but what is the history behind the holiday and how is it celebrated?

This article is all about Thanksgiving! You will learn:

1. The history of the holiday

2. What food is part of a traditional Thanksgiving meal

3. Thanksgiving traditions

The Beginning of Thanksgiving

Click through our slideshow to learn about the history of this U.S. holiday.

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Thanksgiving Today

Thanksgiving in the U.S. today centers around cooking and sharing a huge meal with family and friends. A traditional Thanksgiving meal usually includes the following:

  • Turkey – This is the most recognized symbol/icon of the holiday. Even though historians are not sure if Pilgrims ate turkey at the first Thanksgiving. Nearly 90% of Americans eat turkey, either roasted, baked or deep-fried.
  • Stuffing – This is seasoned bread crumbs that’s put inside the turkey before cooking.
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Pumpkin Pie
Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner


Thanksgiving Traditions

  • Parades – The most famous parade for Thanksgiving is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. It’s been presented by Macy’s department store since 1924. It’s the largest and most famous, attracting about three million people each year and this number doesn’t include the millions who watch it on TV. The parade features marching bands, performers, floats, celebrities, and giant balloons. You can watch the parade on NBC from 9:00AM-12:00PM(EST) on Thursday, November 22. You can also watch a live stream from your computer if you visit

Watch the video below to get a preview of this year’s parade!

  • American Football – Pretty much every level of football, from amateur and high school, to college and NFL (National Football League) is played on Thanksgiving. There are games that start on Thanksgiving day and continue the rest of the weekend. Professional teams have played on Thanksgiving since the 1890s. The Detroit Lions have played a home game on Thanksgiving since 1934. The Dallas Cowboys have played at home on the holiday since 1966.
  • President Pardons Turkey – Since around the mid-20th century the U.S. President “pardons” one or two turkeys on Thanksgiving. The turkeys are saved from being killed for dinner and taken to a farm for retirement.
President Obama pardons turkey for Thanksgiving 2011.


  • Black Friday – For millions of Americans the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday. This means it’s time to do Christmas shopping! It’s one of the MAJOR shopping days of the year. While it’s not an official U.S. holiday, most people have the day off from work.
The term “Black Friday” was created in the 1960s to mark the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. “Black” refers to stores moving from “red” to the “black”. Red means stores are losing money and black means a profit.
For several years stores opened up at 6:00AM, but within the past couple of years stores started opening at 4:00AM or 5:00AM. In 2011, many stores such as Target, Kohls, Macy’s, and Best Buy opened at midnight.
A crowd outside a store for Black Friday.
 Black Friday seems like a great day to do shopping for the holidays or even for yourself. But be careful if you decide to go out to grab some stuff. As you can see from the picture on the left, stores get packed with people and sometimes it becomes dangerous.
In 2011, a woman at a Wal-Mart in California used pepper spray on fellow shoppers. In 2008, a crowd of 2,000 people were waiting outside of a Wal-Mart in New York. When the doors opened, the crowd rushed inside and trampled a 34-year-old employee to death.
We’re not trying to scare you! We just want to let you know Black Friday shoppers can get a little out of hand, so be careful if you decide to go shopping. Here is an article we found helping in finding the best Black Friday deals: click here.
  •  Cyber Monday – If you’re not a fan of crowds or you would rather do your shopping online, the Monday after Thanksgiving is known as Cyber Monday. This was created in 2005 as a way for people to get discounts while shopping online.
The International Student Voice Magazine team wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving!

3 thoughts on “Thanksgiving in the United States Explained

  1. I have to say that I’ve been in this country for a few years now and have celebrated Thanksgiving with my American friends, but it wasn’t until I read this article that I now fully understand the history behind this holiday! Thanks for writing such an informative and educational article!

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