The first Thanksgiving was held in 1621. After a good harvest, the Pilgrim Fathers, who had travelled to America aboard the Mayflower, organised a great feast. They also invited their Indian friends, who had helped the Pilgrims through their first year in the New World.
After that first Thanksgiving, the holiday was not observed regularly and not usually in autumn. In 1863, however, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed an annual Thanksgiving Day to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. In 1939, President Roosevelt changed the date to the penultimate Thursday of November to enlarge the Christmas shopping period, which starts after the Thanksgiving celebrations. Not all states followed Roosevelt’s declaration though, and so in 1941 the United States Congress finally decided to celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November (which sometimes is the last, sometimes the penultimate Thursday).
In the United States, Thanksgiving lasts four days now because most people also get the Friday off. The holiday is celebrated with family and friends, and a huge dinner is served in the early afternoon or evening. The traditional Thanksgiving dinner is a roasted turkey served with stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans and various pies for dessert.
In Canada, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1710. For about 200 years, it was held for example when a royal child was born or when a battle was won. It became an annual holiday in 1931 and is now celebrated on the second Monday of October.