Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a time "to give thanks" for a plentiful harvest, because it is celebrated on the last Thursday of November at the end of the harvest season.
However, the history of Thanksgiving is not clear, because the harvest season is celebrated in many countries and cultures. Americans commonly celebrate the first harvest of the "pilgrims", or the first colonists to settle in North America, in 1621. Many colonists came to the New World for religious freedom, because England did not allow diversity in religion. Native Americans and colonists did not always live together peacefully, but they did learn from each other by trading goods and farming methods. So many people celebrate the first successful harvest of the colonists.
Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a religious holiday, as a time to give thanks to God for the blessings in one's life. People can be thankful for things like their good health, the safety of their families, or having good friends. All of these things are called "blessings", or things that God has given us.
For Americans who are not religious, thankfulness is just a feeling of gratitude. It is easy to forget how lucky we are, so Thanksgiving is a time to be reminded of the priceless things in our lives. Many families talk about what they are thankful for as they are sitting around the dinner table before they start the meal.
Thanksgiving is usually celebrated by getting together with lots of family, including grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The meal is held in one family's home, and it is common for guests to bring drinks, snacks and desserts. Because Thanksgiving is close to christmas, families can spend one holiday with the mother's family and the other holiday with the father's family. University students can invite boyfriends, girlfriends or friends whose families live too far away to come home with them for the holiday.
The first image that comes to mind when people think about Thanksgiving is a big, fat turkey. Turkeys are indeed enormous; the average Thanksgiving turkey is 15 pounds, or 6.8 kilograms. (This means that people have to eat turkey sandwiches for weeks after Thanksgiving!) The meal, often held in the late afternoon, also includes mashed potatoes with gravy, bread rolls, stuffing (which can be cooked inside the turkey), cranberry sauce, sweet corn, and other seasonal vegetables like sweet potato and GREen beans. For dessert, pumpkin pie is most popular, although many families enjoy other kinds of pie as well, such as apple pie, pecan pie or blueberry pie.
After the meal, families relax and spend time together, sometimes watching American football games or Thanksgiving Day parades on television. Thanksgiving is also a time to volunteer or donate your time and money to charities. As people reflect on the blessings in their lives, they are inspired to help those who may be going through difficult times. Many churches and community organizations hold free dinners where people volunteer to buy, cook and serve the food. People also organize "food drives" where canned and packaged food is donated, collected and given to those in need. Also, companies and organizations can hold charity events, where employees, friends and families can pay to attend a dinner or dance and all of the money is donated to a charity.