Thanksgiving (Holiday)

Thanksgiving is a major US federal holiday observed on the fourth Thursday of November. It is a holiday that originates from harvest celebrations and church services by the settling Pilgrims in the 1620s, subsequent annual harvest events, and proclamations of Thanksgiving being an official holiday by President George Washington in 1789. For Native Americans, however, this holiday remains a solemn day of mourning –a time to remember their ancestors, customs, and culture that perished after settlers arrived.

To celebrate Thanksgiving in a way that is more respectful of indigenous people, Sioux Chef Sean Sherman suggests in Time Magazine, there is a …Better Way to Celebrate the Holiday (available in English only). Rather than glamorize the dark history of European settlement and perpetuate a false narrative of unity between ‘pilgrims and indians’, focus on the food and values of appreciation, charity, and togetherness. Be grateful for what you have, be generous to those who are in need, and connect with family and friends. Celebrate nobler values of thankfulness, kindness, generosity, and togetherness.

As an alternative to Thanksgiving, some families observe American Indian Heritage Day which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008. The civil holiday is held the day after Thanksgiving (fourth Friday of November). Maryland also established it as an official state holiday in 2008, followed by the state of Washington in 2013 with their Native American Heritage Day.

For more insight on what Thanksgiving means to Native Americans see Native Hope’s blog (available in English only). For activities to recognize the Native American perspective, see the Educational Resources on National Geographic and visit the Native American Heritage Month site hosted by The Library of Congress.


Traditional Food

  • ♠ Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce/jelly, sweet potato casserole, green beans
  • ♣ Indigenous food focuses on native ingredients such as turkey, corn, beans, wild rice, pumpkins, maple, cranberries, etc

Superstitions

  • Superstitions: None

Customs

  • ♠ Eat turkey
  • ♣ Gather for meals with family and friends
  • ♥ Watch parades (notably the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York) in person or on tv
  • ♦ Watch National Football League (NFL) football in person or on tv
  • ♠ Shop for Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals
  • ♣ For indigenous people and supporters, honor the day as a day of mourning

Travel Tips

Thanksgiving is a major observed holiday in the USA. Most businesses will be closed. Please plan accordingly. Contact businesses directly to find out if they have any special holiday hours.

  • Peak Season for Travel:
    • Make reservations early
    • Airfare, car rentals, and lodging will be booked far in advance and selling at premium holiday rates
    • Flying on the actual holiday is generally cheaper than the days surrounding it
    • Hotels and other accommodations may require a minimum length of stay
    • Expect traffic the week leading up to and the days following as families return from vacation (especially Fridays and Sundays)
    • Thanksgiving Day is usually low traffic
  • Hours:
    • Non-essential government offices will be closed
    • Many businesses (including groceries and restaurants) will be closed or have limited hours on Thanksgiving Eve and Thanksgiving Day
    • National parks are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day
    • Public transportation will be running limited holiday hours
  • Road Closures:
    • Roads may be closed ahead of time for parades and other celebrations; they remain closed for an extended period of time afterwards for cleanup 
  • Free Street Parking:
    • On-street parking meters are generally free on federal holidays and federally observed holidays (see meter or street sign)
    • On-street parking meters are generally free on Sundays (see meter or street sign)
  • Sales:
    • Most stores have promotional sales leading up to the holiday
    • Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) offers the largest bargains of the year for most stores
    • Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) offers additional bargains for technology and mail-order gifts
    • Many Americans use purchases during this time for gifts in December (e.g. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc)

Event Location

Event Timing

  • Date:November 24, 2022