Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day is the American holiday that commemorates the help offered by the natives to the first English settlers who arrived aboard the Mayflower in Massachusetts around 1620. Now an institutionalised holiday and a symbol of the stars and stripes identity, it sees American families busy preparing the classic turkey to be eaten at lunch with neighbours and shared with those most in need.
It was then the natives, unexpectedly, who came to the aid of the travellers, expelled from the mother country because of the rigour of their puritanical Calvinism, advising them to take up maize cultivation and turkey farming. With new prosperity achieved, in 1623 the leader of the Pilgrim Fathers, William Bradford, ordered families to gather in their homes on the last Thursday in November to thank God's goodness for the grace they had received by consuming the very turkeys that had enabled them to achieve new prosperity in the homeland that had welcomed them.
According to the custom, the creation of which is alternately attributed to Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman or John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the President of the United States annually pardons two turkeys, one of which is then paraded in the parade held in Los Angeles to mark the holiday. The act is symbolic of the country's gratitude to the animal: the two turkeys annually pardoned are in fact those donated for the presidential lunch by the National Turkey Federation. By thus refraining from killing and consuming them, the President testifies to the country's gratitude towards the symbol of its origins. The holiday traditionally falls on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States, and on the second Monday in October in Canada.
Inaugurated by colonists, Thanksgiving Day has often been the subject of controversy over the centuries. Indeed, the holiday is not particularly appreciated by Native Americans and some minorities who associate it with remembering the death of their ancestors. For this reason, a day of mourning or 'no thanksgiving' has been established in some groups to oppose the official holiday.