Happy Thanksgiving!! – a lesson about the holiday’s history, traditions and genuinely American dishes

Today, on Thanksgiving, I am grateful for many things, including all my wonderful students who make my life better every single day. In honor of giving thanks,  I created a little lesson about my favorite holiday! You can learn about the history of this special day, how we celebrate today and also see some cute, funny pictures.

Hope you have a day full of abundance and joy!

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Compiled and written by Tara Briana Musich1 2 3

Thanksgiving Day is the fourth Thursday in November. It is a federal holiday, so schools, banks, post offices, and government offices are closed. On this special holiday, people travel far distances in order to spend time with their loved ones, share the traditional meal and give thanks for all they are grateful for.


It all started in 1620 when the Pilgrims, who were part of the English Separatist Church, left their home country of England in order to gain the freedom to practice their religion. They left on a ship called the Mayflower and spent 65 days at sea. The voyage was very difficult and when they landed in North America during winter, their plight didn’t improve. In order to brave the cold, harsh conditions, the pilgrims began to build houses in the new settlement of Plymouth Rock. Unfortunately, due to a lack of food and provisions, over half of the 102 men, women and children died. 


In the spring of 1621, as the weather got better so did their chances for survival. The new settlers were not aware that there were other people living, and thriving, in this land. These native people, the Wampanoag Indian tribe, offered their friendship to the Pilgrims. The American Indians taught the settlers how to grow crops like corn and showed them better hunting techniques. 


The following harvest was very bountiful and the Pilgrims were grateful for the abundance and success that they had been awarded. The Pilgrims decided to have an autumn feast in celebration of the excellent harvest, and to show appreciation to their new-found friends and give thanks to God. It is said that 90 Native Americans attended the event. The festivities lasted for three days and were centered on a grand banquet consisting of wild fowl (goose, duck, and turkey), deer, corn, pumpkins, fish, shellfish and eels. The rest, as they say, is history.  It became a national holiday in 1863.



Since 1621, the meal may have changed slightly but the traditions of giving thanks for family, friends, health, and abundance are still alive. Today, families celebrate Thanksgiving by eating turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, candied yams, green bean casserole, creamed corn, and cranberry sauce. They begin the meal by giving thanks in the form of a prayer or declaration, and then finish the meal with coffee and delicious desserts, like pumpkin and pecan pie.

 turkey    potatoes   yams

Turkey and Stuffing (-a bread mixture), Mashed Potatoes and Gravy (-a sauce), Candied Yams (-a type of sweet potato)

beans  corn  cran

Green Bean Casserole, Creamed Corn, and Cranberry Sauce

pecan      pumpkin

Pecan pie and Pumpkin pie with Whipped Cream   

Many people enjoy watching special televised Thanksgiving events before or after the meal ,such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, an NFL football game or a holiday film like “It’s Thanksgiving Charlie Brown!” – A classic cartoon from the 1960’s. Thanksgiving is also celebrated in Canada, with the same traditions and similar foods, but on the 2nd Monday in October.



Comprehension Questions: http://iteslj.org/questions/thanksgiving.html

Unusual Thanksgiving facts: http://www.nationwide.com/thanksgiving-facts-infographic.jsp

Websites used: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving ; and Google Images