Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day, presently celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, has been an annual tradition in the United States since 1863. It did not become a federal holiday until 1941. Thanksgiving was historically a religious observation to give thanks to God, and is still celebrated as such by many families, but it is now also considered a secular holiday as well.
Most Americans celebrate by gathering at home with family or friends for a holiday feast. Though the holiday's origins can be traced to harvest festivals which have been celebrated in many cultures since ancient times, the American holiday is tied to the deliverance of the English settlers by Native Americans after the harsh winter at Plymouth, Massachusetts and that event has become the pre-eminent foundation story for English North America.
The First Thanksgiving was celebrated to give thanks to God and the Native Americans for helping the pilgrims survive the brutal winter. Although half of the pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower had already died, many more would have had it not been for the Native Americans teaching the pilgrims to harvest foods. The first Thanksgiving feast lasted three whole days providing enough food for 53 pilgrims and 90 Indians. The traditional Thanksgiving menu often features turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. Americans may eat these foods on modern day Thanksgiving, but the first feast did not consist of these items. On the first feast turkey was any type of fowl that the pilgrims hunted. Pumpkin pie wasn't on the menu because there were no ovens for baking, but they did have boiled pumpkin. Cranberries weren't introduced at this time. Due to the diminishing supply of flour there was no bread of any kind. The foods included in the first feast included duck, geese, venison, fish, lobster, clams, swan, berries, dried fruit, pumpkin, squash, and many more vegetables.