According to tradition, the first American Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 by the English Pilgrims who had founded the Plymouth Colony, now in the state of Massachusetts. The Pilgrims marked the occasion by feasting with their Native American guests - members of the Wampanoag tribe - who brought gifts of food as a gesture of goodwill. Although this event was an important part of American colonial history, there is no evidence that any of the participants thought of the feast as a thanksgiving celebration. Two years later, during a period of drought, a day of fasting and prayer was changed to one of thanksgiving because rains came during the prayers. Gradually the custom prevailed among New Englanders to annually celebrate Thanksgiving after the harvest.
Colonial governments and, later, state governments took up the Puritan custom of designating thanksgiving days to commemorate various public events. Gradually the tradition of holding annual thanksgiving holidays spread throughout New England and into other states. During the American Revolution (1775-1783) the Continental Congress proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving following the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777.U.S. President George Washington proclaimed another day of thanksgiving in 1789 in honor of the ratification of the Constitution of the United States. In 1817 New York State adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom, and many other states soon did the same. Most of the state celebrations were held in November, but not always on the same day.
In 1863, during the American Civil War (1861-1865), President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day in order to bolster the Union's morale. After the war, Congress established Thanksgiving as a national holiday, but widespread national observance caught on only gradually. Many Southerners saw the new holiday as an attempt to impose Northern customs on them. However, in the late 19th century Thanksgiving's emphasis on home and family appealed to many people throughout the United States. As a distinctly American holiday, Thanksgiving was also considered an introduction to American values for the millions of immigrants then entering the country.
During the 20th century, as the population of the United States became increasingly urban, new Thanksgiving traditions emerged that catered to city dwellers. The day after Thanksgiving gradually became known as the first day of the Christmas shopping season. To attract customers, large retailers such as Macy's in New York City and Gimbel's in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, began to sponsor lavish parades. By 1934 the Macy's parade, featuring richly decorated floats and gigantic balloons, attracted more than one million spectators annually.
The Water-Splashing Festival
The Water-Splashing Festival is on April 13-15, when the Dai people celebrate their New Year's Day. The celebrations change on each day. The first day is for cleaning up the houses and neighborhood. The next day everyone goes out to the streets and splashes water to each other with their pans, pails and buckets. The clean water is believed to be the best blessing. And on the third day people have fun by taking dragon boats and setting off firecrackers.
As to where the Water-Splashing Festival comes from, there is a folk legend. A long time ago, a demon king impressed by the fertility of the Jinghong area in Yunnan, appropriated it and forced seven beautiful Dai maidens to be his wives. The people hated the demon, and the ladies tried to find out ways to get rid of him.
One day, one of them hit upon an idea. She plied him with alcohol and showered him with flatter. At last she got to know a secret: the only thing that could kill him was to tie a piece of hair from his own head around his neck.
Soon he was snoring in drunken slumber. The lady did as she had found out about, and the demon's head dropped to the floor, rolling. As he was a "fire demon", whatever the rolling head touched burst into flame. The seven wives and all the people splashed water over the fire and managed to extinguish it. Since then, the Dai people have been celebrating the "Water-Splashing Festival".