Everything You Need to Know About Thanksgiving This Year

We’ve got answers to all your pressing Thanksgiving questions—and maybe some fun facts you never knew.

When is Thanksgiving 2020, what is Thanksgiving, and more facts and info - Thanksgiving meal with turkey
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'Tis the season for Thanksgiving planning. Time to figure out how to carve a turkey and the best ways to share our Thanksgiving wishes!

You may have been celebrating Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving for years now, but you still might not know everything about this wonderfully food-forward holiday. You're not alone! In fact, people all around the country may be wondering "When is Thanksgiving this year?" and "Why did the pilgrims celebrate the first Thanksgiving?" Or they're looking up ideas for Thanksgiving quotes to share at their tables.

Maybe you're too busy for that right now. You've got enough on your plate booking your holiday plane tickets and tackling all the best Thanksgiving episodes of your favorite shows. Or perhaps you're planning your Thanksgiving table decor, and trying to remember how to properly set the table. Who has time to learn about history? Let this be a source of Thanksgiving-related facts for you, all in one place.

Here, we cover the pertinent facts behind the holiday, why some Americans celebrate the National Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving, and, of course, specifics about the meal's star player: the turkey. Read on, and then prep for Thanksgiving Day knowing you're well prepared when, say, your loveably weird uncle starts asking random questions about the holiday. We've got answers!

01 of 08

When is Thanksgiving?

When is Thanksgiving Day 2019
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Thanksgiving is always celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.

02 of 08

When was the first Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving 2018 Facts: When was the first Thanksgiving?
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According to the History Channel, the first sign of our Thanksgiving tradition occurred in 1621 when the Native American tribe Wampanoag joined the pilgrims in Plymouth (the ones who came over on the Mayflower) for an autumn harvest festival. After that, different colonies and states celebrated their own versions of thanksgiving celebrations until 1863, when Thanksgiving Day became a national holiday.

03 of 08

Why did the pilgrims celebrate the first Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving 2018 Facts: Why Did the Pilgrims Celebrate the First Thanksgiving?
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The pilgrims had a pretty rough time when they first got to New England. Many didn't survive the first harsh winter, and a second would have likely killed them all if it weren't for the generosity of the indigenous Wampanoag people.

The Native Americans taught the colonists how to harvest the land, and it was this act of fellowship that led to a successful harvest that next fall. To celebrate, Governor William Bradford organized the first Thanksgiving celebration.

04 of 08

How long did the first Thanksgiving last?

Thanksgiving 2018 Facts: How Long Did the First Thanksgiving Last
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While we don't know if the first colonists at Plymouth used the term "Thanksgiving" to describe their shared feast, we do know that the first iteration of the holiday was a three-day celebration. The History Channel notes that records from the settlers' journals show the first Thanksgiving menu was a tad different than what we've become accustomed to, featuring deer brought over by the Wampanoag guests and no pies or desserts because the Mayflower's sugar supply was so low.

05 of 08

Why is the story of Thanksgiving controversial?

While it's true the first Thanksgiving was peaceful, the pilgrims stole Native American land upon their arrival in America, which led to the deaths of thousands of indigenous people and deep cultural wounds.

The basic Thanksgiving story (of colonialists and Native Americans feasting together in harmony) signifies a whitewashing of history. The relationship between European settlers and the Wampanoag is depicted as one of complete fellowship and respect, and that wasn't always the case. This is why people protest the holiday each year and gather for events like National Day of Mourning, which honor the much more nuanced history of Thanksgiving, including the disrespectful treatment of our Native American ancestors.

06 of 08

What president made Thanksgiving a national holiday?

Contrary to popular belief, it wasn't George Washington. Abraham Lincoln made it a national tradition to give thanks in November. Washington was the first president to tell Americans to observe the holiday—and John Adams and James Madison followed suit—but until Lincoln, the day was not an annual holiday. If celebrated on a state level, it was observed on different days around the country.

07 of 08

What is a baby turkey called?

Thanksgiving 2018 Facts: What Is a Baby Turkey Called?
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A baby turkey is called a "poult." The term was first used in the 15th century. Turkeys are among a group of birds called fowl, which include many birds domesticated and kept for their eggs and meat, such as chickens, pheasants, and ducks. According to the Baltimore Bird Club, a group of turkeys is called a "rafter," and PBS notes that a male turkey is referred to as a "tom," while a female is a "hen."

08 of 08

When is Thanksgiving in Canada?

Thanksgiving 2018 Facts: Canada Thanksgiving
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Canada also has a Thanksgiving Day, though it's different from its American counterpart. Also a day for giving thanks, the day is celebrated on the second Monday of October by our northern neighbors.

According to TIME, Canada's Thanksgiving origins also begin with the explorer who first discovered the land, but then transitioned to a day when the people could celebrate not being American. (Rude!) They were happy to be Canadians because they avoided having to fight (and die) in the Civil War.

Eventually, it became a day to celebrate a year of bountiful harvest, and they enjoy a meal similar to ours with turkey, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes.

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