Before I started digging into Thanksgiving, I thought it was just some kind of historical holiday where Pilgrims were able to peacefully interact with Native Americans and survive the winter. Eventually, in modern times it became this vague holiday about “giving thanks” and “being thankful”.
Thanksgiving is a traditional celebration of harvest. Given that people back in the 17th century lived in small agricultural communities, a bad harvest could be the end of a colony and the death of dozens of families. Eventually, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln formally proclaimed that Thanksgiving would take place on the last Thursday of November. In 1939, Franklin Delano Roosevelt broke free from this tradition and proclaimed that Thanksgiving would fall on the third Thursday instead. This was done to extend the buying season for Christmas and give merchants more business during bad economic times. In 1941, Congress passed a resolution to make Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November and it’s been that way ever since.
Given that only the USA (and maybe Canada) would have English settlers interacting with Native Americans, would other countries celebrate Thanksgiving?
Canada celebrates Thanksgiving. Its narrative isn’t quite as strong as America’s with only vague references to Martin Frobisher and French settlers. (Canadians apparently eat this thing called a Nanaimo bar which looks interesting looking.) Because of its proximity to America, more and more Mexicans are celebrating Thanksgiving every year. Inspired by American Thanksgiving, Brazil began celebrating Thanksgiving after a Brazilian ambassador visited the US in the 1940s. Liberia, China, Germany, & Korea also celebrate some kind of Thanksgiving celebration.