Thanksgiving is one of the most famous celebrations in the United States calendar and is an important event in North American culture.
It is a public holiday and is associated with family gatherings, delicious food and good times.
As the name suggests, Thanksgiving is a time for saying ‘thank you’ for everything people in North America have been grateful for over the previous year.
Let’s explore more about Thanksgiving and learn some different ways to say thank you in English.
The history of Thanksgiving
The traditional story of Thanksgiving recalls how, in 1620, Pilgrims from England arrived in Massachusetts in the USA. Their first year in the colony was extremely hard and many died from disease and hunger when the harvest failed. After befriending the local Wamponoag tribe, they had their first successful harvest in November 1621. They invited their new friends to a feast to say thank you.
Despite the warmth of this story, the truth is actually far darker and this peaceful co-existence did not last.
As we know, because of the arrival of the colonists and those that came after, uncountable numbers of Native American people suffered, lost their lands and lives. It is important to understand and reflect on this as we show thanks for the privilege we have today.
Native American Heritage Day
Since 2008, Native American Heritage day has been observed by Americans of all backgrounds. It’s an occasion to show appreciation for Native Americans and their contribution to the country.
It takes place a day after Thanksgiving and is often promoted in schools to drive greater awareness of the true history of the United States.
When is Thanksgiving celebrated today?
US President Abraham Lincoln established the fourth Thursday in November as the official date for Thanksgiving. In 2022 Thanksgiving falls on 24th November.
In Canada, the timing is slightly different. The festival is celebrated on the second Monday of October, to celebrate the end of harvest.
The meaning of Thanksgiving
If you’ve been invited to celebrate Thanksgiving with American or Canadian friends, it’s worth knowing that for some people Thanksgiving is a Christian event. For others, it is simply an opportunity to be with family or friends and take the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ each year for some of the following things:
16 ways to say ‘Thank you’ in English
Food plays an important role in the celebration of Thanksgiving in North America. Families will travel across the country to gather at the home of their parents for a large dinner that usually includes turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce.
Dishes such as sweet potato mash casseroles with marshmallow topping, macaroni cheese and tamales sometimes make it to the table too.
Before the meal begins, it is traditional to say grace (a type of prayer), give blessings or to say thank you to the host and for the other good things we are grateful for in our lives.
There are several ways to express gratitude in this way. For example:
- “I am grateful for the love and support of my family”
- “I would like to thank my Mom and Dad for everything they have done for me in the past year”
- “I really appreciate the advice and guidance you have all given in recent months”
- “I am so thankful for my health and the health of my children”
- “Thank you for your hospitality and generosity at Thanksgiving this year”
It is also common, although a little more formal, to start with an expression of humility such as:
- “I am honored to be here with you all today”
- “It is a privilege to spend Thanksgiving with you”
- “I am humbled to be asked to give the Thanksgiving blessing today”
- “I want to take this opportunity to say how thankful I am to be invited today”
Informal words to say thank you in English and show appreciation
Aside from these expressions, there are some more informal ways to say thank you in English:
- “Cheers” – this is chiefly a British or Australian thank you, but is sometimes adopted by English speakers in the US.
- “I owe you one” – we use this expression, informally, to show we owe a person a favor.
- “Thanks a million” – this is an enthusiastic way of saying thanks!
- “Thanks a bunch” – we use this when we want to show how much something means to us.
- “Much obliged” – this is a slightly less common alternative to thank you.
- “Much appreciated” – this is used in the same way as thank you, but is also less common.
- “Nice one!” – this congratulates someone on a good job, but also works a little like a thank you.
Alternative ways of showing gratitude
Americans don’t just say thank you verbally at Thanksgiving. They also show their gratitude in various activities that are very popular on the day of the feast:
- Volunteering in care homes, hospitals and in the local community
- Inviting the elderly or the homeless to share their Thanksgiving meal with them
- Distributing Thanksgiving meals in the community
- Donating to charity
- Visiting those who live alone or are in hospital during Thanksgiving
For many Americans, Thanksgiving also means going to one of the many large parades that are held in cities across the country.
The biggest, and most famous, is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. This attracts about three million spectators and is watched by around 40 million people on television.
The parade features large balloons of characters such as Snoopy and Kermit the Frog. There are also festive floats, clowns and bands which march from Central Park (77th St) to 34th St.
Other notable parades occur in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where the original Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and Seattle.
Black Friday and Connected Traditions
Black Friday is a traditional sale that takes place the day after Thanksgiving. It takes its name from the phrase to be “in the black” – which refers to making a profit. This is because many retailers traditionally only saw their profits in the latter part of the year.
Today, retailers offer lots of discounts to mark the start of the holiday shopping season. More recently, Black Friday has become “Black week”, with discounts lasting for longer. Online retailers now also often celebrate “Cyber Monday” to keep the sales going.
These businesses are taking advantage of the fact that nearly everyone is home for the holidays, watching Football, movies, and recovering from eating too much food, whilst browsing the latest offers online. Most people also have the Friday off of work, so head to the shops early to get the best deals.
Speaking of hot deals – don’t miss out this chance to get 85% off a lifetime membership for ELSA Pro. The discount is valid until December 1st.
Final Thoughts: Practicing conversation
During Thanksgiving, there is a lot of conversation over the dinner table. Grandma wants the latest gossip from the grandchildren and uncle Jim is arguing with everyone about politics again. Can you imagine what it would be like to take part in the drama?
Of course, if you’re learning English, speaking can also be a challenge when there’s lots of people speaking at once, especially if their American accents are different from what you are used to. Understanding others and making yourself understood in a noisy place is often difficult.
The good news is that there is a way to prepare: The ELSA Speech Analyser is an artificially intelligent (AI) English fluency coach. It listens to your conversations and provides you with immediate feedback.
It can help you improve your English conversation skills, learn from your mistakes and get ready for all sorts of fun experiences in the real world.
And now, we’d like to express our gratitude too – thank you for visiting our blog. Happy Thanksgiving!