The Beginner's Guide to Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. It seems to be a pretty big deal in America.

We all recognise Thanksgiving from American TV shows and as something our camp friends get very excited about. From the outside, with its turkeys and pilgrims, it looks like a lot of fun. 

But what do we really know about it?

Not much.

So to change that, here’s our Thanksgiving 101, giving you some quick fire facts and the general jist of this all American holiday. You can thank us later.

Let’s jump in with the big question.


What is Thanksgiving?



Thanksgiving is one of North America's most celebrated holidays.


So celebrated, in fact, that more people in the US celebrate Thanksgiving than they do Christmas. We know, we can’t believe it either. Everyone gathers together to give thanks and to be with family, usually over a feast of epic proportions.

Thanksgiving always falls on the 4th Thursday in November, so this year Thanksgiving will be on Thursday the 23rd of November. Just before black Friday.


The tradition of Thanksgiving has been celebrated for nearly 400 years.


First held in the autumn of 1621, the celebration included 50 Pilgrims with 90 of the Wampanoag tribe and lasted three days.

The story goes, that the year before there was a particularly bad harvest in which many pilgrims died so the native Americans came to help. They taught the local village to farm squash, beans and corn, which turned out to be a pretty good thing. It saved the pilgrims and in thanks, at their next harvest, they invited the native Americans to share a feast. Giving us what’s known as the first American Thanksgiving. (We know this is basic, but you get the idea.)

Celebrated every year since it was then made an official holiday by President Lincoln… but only 200 years later.


Weird fact: There were no forks at the first Thanksgiving. The first Thanksgiving was eaten with spoons and knives.


The turkey

The unofficial symbol of Thanksgiving.


Long associated with Thanksgiving, a whopping 46 million turkeys are gobbled every year at tables up and down North America. With Californians swooping in for the prize of eating the most.

But did you know about the Presidential turkey pardon?


Yup. Every year the President pardons two gifted turkeys. These two lucky turkeys are spared and protected from ending up on someone’s plate. Once the ceremony and photoshoot are done, the turkeys go on to join all the other pardoned turkey’s in Morven Park, Virginia USA to live happily ever after.

But alongside the not so lucky turkeys, what else do people eat on Thanksgiving?


On the menu


Turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce: Yum and yes we already know about the turkey but don’t get too comfy, on the Thanksgiving table you might just find something else. Other common mains are duck or goose, sometimes even a turducken (a bird in a bird in a bird... Yup, that’s right.) No fowl play here.

Yams: Simply known to us as sweet potato. Mystery solved.

Mashed potato: Potato... Mashed.

Gravy: Classic.

Pie: Pumpkin pie for pud, or Pecan pie, or apple pie, or even sweet potato (yam) pie; all have one thing in common… they are all pie.


Fun fact :Wild turkeys can run 20 miles per hour when they are scared, or perhaps in a race.


Other traditions


The annual Macy’s day parade.

The Macy’s day parade, is now the largest parade in the world, with it’s cheerleaders, marching bands and giant balloons, it’s a dazzling spectacle which has wowed the New York crowds since 1924.

The first parade was actually performed with live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo, but this changed quite quickly with animals being replaced by the famous floats in 1927. Maybe health and safety stepped in about the Lions.



Thanksgiving is a huge day for American football fans. Annually, on Thanksgiving, the NFL host a triple header and it’s become as traditional to Americans as the turkey or turducken on the table.

Such is the tradition, essentially every level of American football, from highschool to the NFL, will play a game on Thanksgiving day, or through to the immediate weekend, all hoping for a Thanksgiving touchdown.


So as we touch down on this blog, let’s throw in a quick recap


  • The first Thanksgiving was held in the autumn of 1621
  • Lincoln made it an official holiday
  • No forks at the first Thanksgiving.
  • More than 46 million turkeys eaten
  • 2 spared by the president.
  • People eat: turkey or turducken, yams, stuffing and pies
  • Wild turkeys can run 20 miles per hour when they are scared
  • Macy’s day parade - First parade was with live animals in 1924
  • American Football -The NFL started the Thanksgiving Classic games in 1920

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