Thanksgiving Day is an important public holiday in the USA, and is also celebrated (a month earlier) in Canada. The harvest festival and tradition of a thanksgiving feast harks back to the pilgrims who crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower in 1620. In the hard early years of settlement, good harvests were celebrated with thanksgiving dinners and prayers.
The tradition spread throughout the nation and in 1941 President Roosevelt officially proclaimed the last Thursday in November each year as a national day of thanksgiving, giving thanks for the blessings of the past year.
On Thanksgiving Day, families and friends gather and dine on turkey with cranberry sauce and a variety of side dishes, followed by pumpkin pie - all foods native to the New World. While Thanksgiving is primarily a family and community affair many cities in the US also hold spectacular Thanksgiving Day Parades. The best known is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan, New York City, where huge hot air balloons in the shape of animals and cartoon characters are carried through the streets on floats, accompanied by marching bands. The finale is the arrival of Santa Claus, marking the beginning of the Christmas season. Other cities holding annual Thanksgiving Day parades include Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, Washington and Houston.
Throughout the US, football on Thanksgiving Day is as important a part of the celebration as turkey and pumpkin pie. Dating back to the first intercollegiate football championship held on Thanksgiving Day in 1876, Thanksgiving holiday football games have become such an institution that a reporter once stated that Thanksgiving was "a holiday granted by the State and the Nation to see a game of football."
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