Thanksgiving Day was first celebrated in early colonial times in New England. The actual origin, however, is probably the harvest festivals that are traditional in many parts of the world. After the first harvest was completed by the Plymouth colonists in 1621, Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and prayer, shared by all the colonists and neighbouring Native Americans. In 1623 a day of fasting and prayer during a period of drought was changed to one of thanksgiving because the rain came during the prayers.
Gradually the custom prevailed in New England of annually celebrating thanksgiving after the harvest. In 1817 New York State adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom, and by the middle of the 19th century many other states had done the same.
In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln appointed a day of thanksgiving, and since then each president has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation, generally designating the fourth Thursday of November as a holiday.
Certain kinds of food are traditionally served at Thanksgiving meals: first and foremost, turkey is usually the featured item on any Thanksgiving feast table – so much so that Thanksgiving is sometimes referred to as Turkey Day.