US Pauses to Mark Annual Thanksgiving Holiday

Millions of Americans are gathering with family and friends Thursday to celebrate the nation's annual Thanksgiving Day holiday.

Many Americans travel hundreds - even thousands - of kilometers to spend the day with loved ones and enjoy a huge feast with turkey as the main dish. They also watch traditional nationally televised holiday events, including National Football League games.

In New York City, large crowds are lined up along the street of Broadway to watch musical performances, colorful floats and giant helium balloons in the shapes of cartoon characters as part of the city's annual Thanksgiving Day parade sponsored by Macy's department store.

Although there is a record of earlier Thanksgiving celebrations, the tradition is often traced back to 1621. That year, British colonists at the Plymouth settlement in what is now the northeastern state of Massachusetts held a feast with a Native American tribe, the Wampanaog, who taught the colonists how to grow food and hunt for game in their new home.

The celebration grew during the early years of the United States, and President George Washington proclaimed a national Thanksgiving in 1789 to celebrate the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. In 1863, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as an annual national day of Thanksgiving.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation in 1941 that set the annual Thanksgiving holiday for the fourth Thursday in the month.

Three NFL games are on the schedule Thursday, including the Green Bay Packers versus the Detroit Lions, a longtime Thanksgiving Day matchup. The other games include the New York Jets taking on the Dallas Cowboys, and the Indianapolis Colts against the Atlanta Falcons.