History of Thanksgiving

“Thanksgiving is a time of togetherness and gratitude.”

Nigel Hamilton, a British-born biographer

Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the United States, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. The holiday is celebrated not only in the USA. It’s also a public holiday in Canada, but Canadian Thanksgiving occurs on the second Monday in October. Apart from that, Thanksgiving is celebrated in Liberia and some of the Caribbean islands. Similarly named festival holidays also exist in Germany, Japan and some other countries.

The idea of Thanksgiving is celebrating the harvest and other blessings of the past year. It’s a very old holiday with a rich history, and to understand it better, we suggest watching the videos below. Before you do, study the world list with the key vocabulary from the video. It should help you expand your vocabulary and understand the video easily.

Useful vocabulary and other notes:

  • Plymouth colony – an English colonial venture in America from 1620 to 1691 at a location that had previously been surveyed and named by Captain John Smith (by the way, John Smith is one of the main characters in Disney’s 1995 animated film “Pocahontas“). The settlement served as the capital of the colony and developed as the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts.
  • The New World – one of the names used for the majority of Earth’s Western Hemisphere, specifically the Americas and Oceania.
  • Pilgrims – people who left England and went to live in what is now the US in the early 17th century (modern pilgrims are people who travel to a holy place that is important in their religion, and a pilgrimage is a journey that a pilgrim makes to a holy place).
  • Indians (old-fashioned) = Native Americans
  • Things were looking up for the pilgrims = the pilgrims’ situation was improving
  • Wildfowl /wldfl/ – birds such as ducks, swans, and geese that live close to lakes or rivers
  • Mighty (literary) – great, powerful (collocations: mighty king/empire/river)
  • To commemorate – to honor or keep alive the memory of somebody or something (collocations: to commemorate great moments in football history/the anniversary of sb.’s death/a poet/an actor)
  • The (American) Civil War – a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South
  • Brethren – the archaic plural of brother
  • Proclamation – an official announcement (collocations: to issue/make a proclamation, official proclamation, to do sth. by proclamation (e.g. to prohibit sth.)
  • To ratify sth. – to give formal approval or consent to sth. (collocations: to ratify Thanksgiving as an official holiday, to ratify a treaty/protocol/reform)
  • To coincide – to occur or exist at the same time (Thanksgiving coincides with the beginning of the Christmas shopping season)
  • Dwindling – diminishing or shrinking gradually (to boost dwindling attendance)
  • Archery – the sport of shooting arrows from a bow /bəʊ/
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May you and your family be blessed on Thanksgiving and throughout the rest of the year!

Vocabulary practice:

Complete the sentences below with the right word from the list above (the answer key is at the bottom of the page):

  1. Indigenous /ɪnˈdɪdʒənəs/ peoples in what is now the contiguous /kənˈtɪɡjʊəs/ United States were commonly called “American ___”, or simply “___” domestically.
  2. At its height, ___ Colony occupied most of the southeastern portion of Massachusetts.
  3. A ___ is a traveler who is on a journey to a holy place.
  4. Our savings are ___. We need to spend less money.
  5. With a ___ kick, he broke down the door.
  6. A huge bronze statue ___ the poet.
  7. ___ are birds that people hunt.
  8. A person who participates in ___ is typically called an archer or a bowman.
  9. Things could be ___ up in the computer industry.
  10. In 1991, following the ___ of independence, the State of Ukraine came into being as the fifth largest European State.
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Happy Thanksgiving!

Answer key: 1. Indians/Indians 2. Plymouth 3. pilgrim 4. dwindling 5. mighty 6. commemorates 7. Wildfowl 8. archery 9. looking 10. proclamation

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