In the US, Thanksgiving, currently celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, has been an annual tradition in the United States since 1863. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated to give thanks to God for helping the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony survive the brutal winter. The first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days providing enough food for 53 pilgrims and 90 Native Americans. The feast consisted of fowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin,and squash. William Bradford's note that, "besides waterfowl, there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many," probably gave rise to the American tradition of turkey at Thanksgiving.
In the United States, certain kinds of food are traditionally served at Thanksgiving meals. Firstly, baked or roasted turkey is usually the featured item on any Thanksgiving feast table (so much so that Thanksgiving is sometimes referred to as "Turkey Day"). Stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, other fall vegetables, and pumpkin pie are commonly associated with Thanksgiving dinner. All of these are actually native to the Americas or were introduced as a new food source to the Europeans when they arrived. As an alternative to turkey, many vegetarians or vegans eat tofurky, a meatless turkey made of tofu.
The tradition of giving thanks to God is continued today in various forms. Various religious and spiritual organizations offer services and events on Thanksgiving themes the week-end before, the day of, or the week-end after Thanksgiving. At home, it is a holiday tradition in many families to begin the Thanksgiving dinner by saying grace (a prayer before or after a meal). The custom is portrayed in the photograph "Family Holding Hands and Praying Before a Thanksgiving Meal." Traditionally grace was led by the hostess or host, though in later times it is usual for others to contribute.
During Thanksgiving Day families and friends usually gather for a large meal or dinner. Consequently the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is one of the busiest travel periods of the year. Thanksgiving is a four-day or five-day weekend vacation for schools and colleges. Most business and government workers are given Thanksgiving and the day after as paid holidays. Thanksgiving Eve, the night before Thanksgiving, is one of the busiest nights of the year for bars and clubs, as many college students and others return to their hometowns to reunite with friends and family.
In New York City, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is held annually every Thanksgiving Day from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Macy's flagship store in Herald Square, and televised nationally by NBC. The parade features parade floats with specific themes, scenes from Broadway plays, large balloons of cartoon characters and TV personalities, and high school marching bands. The float that traditionally ends the Macy's Parade is the Santa Claus float, the arrival of which is an unofficial sign of the beginning of the Christmas season.
The Friday after Thanksgiving, although not a Federal holiday, is a holiday for many companies, except for those in retail. It is also a day off for most schools. It is popularly known as Black Friday, so-called because of the heavy shopping traffic on that day. Another reason for the term 'Black Friday' is that many stores reach sales numbers that take them out of the red and (hopefully) keep them in the black for the rest of the fiscal year. Black Friday has been considered by retailers to be the start of the Christmas shopping season since at least the 1930s. (From: Wikipedia, license: CCA-SA)