THANKSGIVING DAY, in the United States, the fourth Thursday in November, annually set apart for thanksgiving by proclamation of the president and of the governors of the various states. The day is observed with religious services in the churches, and, especially in New England, as an occasion for family reunion. The Pilgrims set apart a day for thanksgiving at Plymouth immediately after their first harvest, in 1621; the Massachusetts Bay Colony for the first time in 1630, and frequently thereafter until about 1680, when it became an annual festival in that colony; and Connecticut as early as 1639 and annually after 1647, except in 1675. The Dutch in New Netherland appointed a day for giving thanks in 1644 and occasionally thereafter. During the War of Independence the Continental Congress appointed one or more thanksgiving days each year, except in 1777, each time recommending to the executives of the various states the observance of these days in their states. President Washington appointed a day of thanksgiving (Thursday, the 26th of November) in 1789, and appointed another in 1795. President Madison, in response to resolutions of Congress, set apart a day for thanksgiving at the close of the War of 1812. One was annually appointed by the governor of New York from 1817. In some of the Southern States there was opposition to the observance of such a day on the ground that it was a relic of Puritanic bigotry, but by 1858 proclamations appointing a day of thanksgiving were issued by the governors of twenty-five states and two Territories. President Lincoln appointed the fourth Thursday of November 1864, and since that time each president has annually followed his example.
See F. B. Hough, Proclamations for Thanksgiving (Albany, 1858); W. D. Love, The Fast and Thanksgiving Days of New England (Boston, 1895); May Lowe, "Thanksgiving Day ' in New England Magazine (Nov. 1904) ; C. L. Norton, " Thanksgiving Day, Past and Present," in the Magazine of American History (Dec. 1885); R. M. Schauffler (ed.), Thanksgiving (New York, 1907).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)