In any of your fave Hollywood movies, a Thanksgiving Day feast is a groaning table of turkey, sides and cranberry sauce – a veritable comfort food smorgasbord. As a major national holiday, it even pops up as a regular Thanksgiving special in Stateside TV shows. It’s a date that heralds the start of the holiday season in the USA and a popular time for families and friends to come together, making it one of the busiest travel periods in the US annually. 

Get stuffed and give thanks

Thanksgiving in the US is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. Giving thanks for the blessings bestowed upon recipients is practiced by almost all religions, so the first-ever Thanksgiving holiday is debatable but is usually traced back to a pilgrim celebration held by the Plymouth settlers in 1621. So the story goes, a Native American taught the pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn. After the first harvest in September, the 50 remaining pilgrims celebrated for three days and invited around 90 Native Americans to join their feast. With other colonies around America also celebrating their own harvest seasons, since 1863 Thanksgiving has been an annual federal holiday on the last Thursday of November, as decreed by none other than Abe Lincoln.

The Thanksgiving day meal is a tradition that reflects this first shared meal between the pilgrims and Native Americans. Traditionally, Thanksgiving dinner will feature a turkey with stuffing, mashed root vegies, cranberry sauce, corn and pumpkin pie, all staples of the fall seasonal produce and harvest. Other traditions observed on this holiday include the televised Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, watching a gridiron game on TV, and the much-derided turkey pardon, where the current US President ‘pardons’ a turkey (or two) from becoming the table centrepiece. 

United States

When is it?

26th November 2015
24th November 2016

Tips and tricks

  • As already mentioned, the Thanksgiving holiday is the busiest flying time of the year. A hot tip is to fly on Thanksgiving Day for the cheapest flight, but book early to get a seat.

  • Note that it’s a nation-wide holiday that extends to a four- or five-day weekend and many attractions and businesses will not be open on Thanksgiving Day.

  • Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving) is regarded as the start of the Christmas shopping season. Go online or in-store for massive bargains. Camping out overnight is common so BYO chair and blankets!

  • If you’re in a turkey coma and can’t be bothered schlepping to the shops, save your pennies for Cyber Monday instead – the online version of Black Friday.

  • If you don’t have a Thanksgiving Day dinner to crash, plenty of restaurants will put on their own festive spread. From penny-pinching to pricey, plenty of NYC establishments will cater for holiday orphans. Go for a spot not far from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route.

  • And the best vantage point for the parade? You’ll be in a crowd of 3.5 million, so turn up at 8am to bag your possie on Central Park West between Columbus Circle and 77th Street. Pack snacks and dress warm!

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