Every fourth Thursday of November, Americans gather around dining tables across the country to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. A traditional Thanksgiving dinner consists of foods and dishes indigenous  to the American continent: turkey, potatoes, stuffing, squash, corn, green beans, cranberries, and various fruit pies.
Thanksgiving is one of the most-traveled holidays in the United States. Airports and roads are packed, as people visit family around the country. There are also some minor traditions that take place alongside Thanksgiving, like watching American football, tuning in  to the famous Macy’s Day parade in New York, or shopping on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when stores and online retailers run major sales.
The tradition of Thanksgiving has been passed down, some elements for hundreds of years, but the story of its origins is rather complex.
In 1620, some of the first Europeans to visit the North American continent landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts. A year later, they celebrated their first successful harvest with a three-day gathering, attended by members of the Wampanoag tribe, a group of Native Americans. It’s from this celebration that we derive  the story of the “first feast” of Thanksgiving. However, it wasn’t until the 1830s that the event was first called Thanksgiving; and it wasn’t until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared it an official holiday, that it started to be celebrated regularly.
The meaning of Thanksgiving has greatly changed over the years, and we can see this evolution continuing into recent ones. The understanding that the arrival of Europeans in 1621 and the subsequent period of colonization was nothing to celebrate for the Wampanoag tribe and many other Native Americans has entered the mainstream conversation. In fact, some note that it was a time of great suffering for the civilizations existing on the North American continent who would shortly be wiped out by disease and war.
The ways in which Thanksgiving is celebrated seem to be changing as well. In 2020, Thanksgiving traditions were altered drastically as COVID-19 spread across the nation. Many people chose to celebrate the holiday much differently, avoiding social gatherings to protect their loved ones. As families and friends stayed home instead of traveling, gatherings took place over Zoom, shopping moved completely online, and instead of elaborate home-cooked meals, many chose to order take-out. It remains to be seen how COVID-19 will continue to impact the endeared Thanksgiving traditions.
One thing is certain, though: our traditions will continue to change to reflect our current landscape.