Logo   Thanksgiving in New England
America's November national holiday celebrates the arrival of English Calvinist Pilgrims in Plymouth MA, and their establishment, with Wampanoag (Indian) aid, of a successful colony.

Massasoit, Great Sachem of the Wampanoags, Plymouth MA

Massasoit, Great Sachem of the Wampanoags...



Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday in November, is a family home-and-hearth harvest feast, a day when all Americans regardless of race, religion or national heritage gather to remember the goodness of their lives and of the land they live in.

Because every American wants to be with family and friends on Thanksgiving, the week around the holiday is the busiest travel time of the entire year in the USA. More...

Pilgrim Commemoration

Thanksgiving commemorates the first successful year (1621) of the Pilgrim colony at Plymouth MA.

After the first terrible winter, when half of the Pilgrims died, came a summer of abundant crops and successfully hunted game. After the harvest was gathered, the Pilgrims reportedly held a feast of thanksgiving and invited their Wampanoag neighbors who had aided their survival.

President George Washington designated November 26, 1789 as a day of thanksgiving for the new US Constitution, but it was President Abraham Lincoln who, in the midst of the Civil War, declared Thanksgiving to be an annual federal holiday.

Every November, the original Thanksgiving celebration is re-enacted at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth MA.

A Family Holiday

Everyone wants to be with family at Thanksgiving. If this is not possible, they want to be with friends.

  Cranberry Wine, Plymouth MA
  Plymouth wine

Traditional foods served at the Thursday dinner include roast stuffed turkey with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes (yams), sweet corn, green beans, lima beans, salads, and of course sweet pumpkin pie for dessert.

Strangers and foreigners are invited to join in the feast and join a group of friends or family. No one wants to be alone, or for others to be alone, on the day of national thanksgiving.

If you're visiting New England at Thanksgiving, strike up an acquaintance and you'll probably be invited to join the feast.

Travel Nightmare

This means that the week of Thanksgiving is also the busiest travel time of the entire year in the USA as everyone heads home to be with family: 40 million travelers, 31 million on the highways, 29,000 flights. Flights are fully booked months in advance, highways are clogged, trains and buses are packed to capacity. Transport is slow everywhere.

Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, is usually the busiest day, next is the Sunday following Thanksgiving. Tuesday and Saturday of that week also see heavy travel.

The Weather

With a bit of luck, New England's Indian summer may coincide with the Thanksgiving holiday. Fall foliage season and its colorful trees have passed, making a few days of warmth even more welcome.

The Mini-Low-Season

By the way, the weeks in November before Thanksgiving, and the weeks after Thanksgiving until mid-December (that is, before the ramp-up to the Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year's holidays), are excellent times to travel in New England. Transport is uncrowded and fares are lower, although summer businesses are closed off-season.

Some inns also close in November, reopening in December with the advent of ski season.

—by Tom Brosnahan

Thanksgiving Travel


Plymouth MA


Foliage Season

Indian Summer

Veterans Day



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Festivals & Special Events

Tom's New England Almanac

When to Visit New England


Turkey & Cranberry Sauce, Thanksgiving in New England USA

Above, roast turkey and cranberry sauce for the Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pies in New England

Traditional sweet pumpkin pies.

Plymouth Rock, Plymouth MA

Plymouth Rock, Plymouth MA.

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