In 1621, more than 400 years ago, English settlers celebrated their first fall harvest with a feast, and they extended an invitation to the Indigenous people of the area, specifically members of the Wampanoag tribe, who had helped the colonizers adjust to their new home. If not for the Native Americans, it’s likely those Pilgrims would have perished.
That event has come to be known as the “first Thanksgiving.” President George Washington was the first to issue a proclamation for the holiday in 1789, designating Thursday, November 26 “a day of public thanksgiving.” However, it didn’t become a national holiday with a set date until 1863. Some 160 years later, Americans from coast to coast still gather with family and friends on the fourth Thursday of November to express their gratitude for the year’s bounty—and to overeat.
A cheery trumpeter marches along Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia during a Thanksgiving Day parade.
Shantanu Saha, Pennsylvania, 2015
Thanksgiving is commonly a busy travel day, and the 2023 holiday is no exception. American Airlines expects to carry a half-million more passengers than last year, flying 7.8 million people on more than 70,000 flights over a 13-day period.
Julia Nikhinson, New York, 2022
The debate continues. Which is the better pie: pumpkin or sweet potato? When it comes to Thanksgiving dessert, pumpkin often wins the competition—one Food Network
poll had it handily defeating sweet potato with 75 percent of the votes.
Haylee Winstead, Texas, 2018
Performers in sequined, Christmas red-and-green ensembles wave to those observing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from above.
Naitian (Tony) Wang, New York, 2019
Most people associate Thanksgiving Day with football, but who needs passes and plays when paddleboarding is an option? In Corona Del Mar, these two decided to end their Thanksgiving Day enjoying the sunset on the water.
Toni Ravelli, California, 2017
This young pair, celebrating Thanksgiving on their great-grandpa’s farm, is thankful for strong old trees that can securely hold the weight of swinging toddlers.
Brooke Cheatham, Oklahoma, 2018
Parading isn’t for the weak. After a day of marching, young and exhausted bandmembers catch a breath before taking a commemorative photo.
Jacek Kutyba, New York, 2017
Could this be the beginning of a generations-long tradition? Before they sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, young boys wisely work up an appetite with a game of football.
Gwen Roache, South Carolina, 2015
One camera snapped this image of another camera that’s aimed toward the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Both catch a marching band along the route.
Sung Lee, New York, 2017
When you’re really enjoying your Thanksgiving turkey and those with you around the table, you can skip the formalities.
Laurence Boudreau, Maine, 2021
Even those celebrating on a cruise ship can’t completely avoid Thanksgiving Day traffic.
Robert Neff, Florida, 2021
Elves! They’re off the shelf and away from Santa’s workshop in time to join the parade and help launch the official start of the holiday season.
Peter Brandenstein, New York, 2016
Plot twist! Instead of being the dinner, these birds at an animal sanctuary are enjoying a meal of fresh veggies on Thanksgiving Day.
Sandra Severson, Pennsylvania, 2022
Could these stars photographed at Joshua Tree National Park be the same stars that the Native Americans and European colonizers gazed upon during that fall harvest feast in 1621 that would come to be known as Thanksgiving? It’s possible.
Michael Hallman, California, 2015