Thanksgiving Day, Time to Express Your Thanks

 Thanksgiving Day Reading Comprehension       Level A2/B1

Thanksgiving Day comes on the 4th Thursday in November.  It is a legal holiday celebrated throughout the United States.  People of all faiths celebrate this day.  They give thanks for the many good things in their lives.

This is a family holiday. Families come together from near and far. In some places special religious services are held in the morning. Then comes the traditional feast.  Turkey with stuffing is the main dish. It is served with sweet potatoes, squash, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.  Apple cider is the drink of the day.  Football is the most popular game on this day.  For many schools, the Thanksgiving Day game is the most important one of the year. Usually there are several football games to watch on TV.

Macy’s department store holds its annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.  Celebrities, floats, bands, and balloons shaped like famous story book and cartoon characters appear in the parade. Santa Claus arrives at the end.  His coming marks the beginning of   Christmas season.

Stores, classrooms, and homes are decorated with turkeys, pilgrims, Indians, wreaths of dried flowers, and vegetables.  Horns of plenty are also very popular. Charitable organizations serve dinners to needy people.  They also send baskets of food to the elderly and sick.


The first Thanksgiving Day was celebrated by the Pilgrims on 1621.  They came from England for religious freedom.  They sailed from   Plymouth, England, on September 16, 1620.  Their ship was called  the Mayflower.  They landed at Plymouth Rock, in Massachusetts, on December 26, 1620.

The first winter was a terrible time.  There was much sickness and   starvation.  Native Indians taught the Pilgrims how to plant, to   fish, to hunt and how to survive in America.  The crops did well, and in the fall of 1621 the Pilgrims had a great harvest.  They were very thankful and decided to celebrate with a feast.  The Pilgrims invited their Indian friends to share this Thanksgiving feast. Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national day of observance by Congress in 1941.

Fascinating  Facts

Thanksgiving is now celebrated as a legal holiday on the fourth  Thursday of November in the United States.  It is time to express  one’s thanks for good fortune throughout the year.  The first Thanksgiving Day in the United States is thought to have  been held on August 9,1607, by colonists of the Popham Colony,  which is now Phippsburg, Maine.  The first big Thanksgiving  celebration, however, is said to have taken place in 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  The Pilgrims and Indians feasted for  three days to celebrate their rich harvest after suffering a severe  winter following the Pilgrims’ long, harsh journey to America.

In 1789, George Washington proclaimed November 26 as Thanksgiving  in honor of the adoption of the United States Constitution.  Through the efforts of Sara Josepha Hale, the editor of Ladies’ Magazine in Boston, Thanksgiving became a national holiday observed on the same day every year.  She proposed the fourth Thursday of November because November 26, the day George Washington had  originally selected, had been the fourth Thursday.

In 1941,  President Franklin D.  Roosevelt proclaimed the fourth Thursday as Thanksgiving Day in all the states and U.S.  possessions.

Thanksgiving Day is associated with certain symbols and foods.  Turkey is part of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, since it is believed that the Pilgrims and Native Americans had turkey at their   feast.

Cranberries are also part of Thanksgiving dinner, probably  because the Pilgrims had cranberries, which they found in bogs  around Plymouth.  The “cranberry”, as it was called, was used for  dye, as well as for food.

The horn of plenty, or the cornucopia, is a familiar Thanksgiving  symbol. It is a symbol of Earth’s bounty, and reminds us how much of our food comes from the earth.

Indian corn is used as a decoration.  The American Indians taught  the Pilgrims how to plant corn, which the pilgrims used to survive   their first winter.  To keep hostile tribes from knowing how many  Pilgrims had died, the Pilgrims planted corn over graves.

Today, Thanksgiving is the unofficial beginning of the Christmas  season, and in many cities and communities, Thanksgiving marks the arrival of Santa Claus.  Gimbel Brothers started this tradition with a parade of toys in Philadelphia in 1920.  The famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City is part of the traditional celebration.  It is viewed on television by millions of  people each year.

Thanksgiving Day Reading Comprehension

Match words or phrases with similar meaning.

  1. annual 
  2. elderly
  3. feast 
  4. harvest 
  5. observance 
  6. faiths 
  7. starvation 
  8. stuffing 
  9. survive 
  10. wreath   

a. to stay alive

b. a large meal, a banquet

c. religions

d. circular arrangement of flowers

e. hunger

f. happening every year

g. putting food inside meat or vegetables

h. people of old age

i. the collection of crops (fruits, vegetables)

j. the celebration of a holiday

Underline the word that does not belong.

  1. flowers      arrangement      wreath      food
  2. hunger      starvation      need      abundance
  3. annual      yearly      weekly      every 12 months
  4. young      mature      old      elderly
  5. harvest      collection      planting      gathering crops
  6. celebration      observance      forgetting      ceremony
  7. religions      games      faiths      beliefs
  8. alive      survive      die      exist
  9. banquet      feast      starvation      meal
  10. stuffing      food      filling      reading

Underline the word that best completes the sentence.

  1. On Thanksgiving some organizations prepare food for the needy and the (stores, faiths, elderly).
  2. It is traditional to make turkey with (wreaths, feasts, stuffing) on Thanksgiving.
  3. People of all (survive, faiths harvest) celebrate this holiday.
  4. The Pilgrims organized a (feast. wreath, faith) to celebrate that they were alive.
  5. Thanksgiving is an (annual, observance, elderly) holiday celebrated by people of all faiths.
  6. After the Indians taught the Pilgrims how to plant, they had a good (survival, harvest, wreath).
  7. Congress decided to have a day of (annual, survival, observance) for Thanksgiving in 1941.
  8. The first year that the Pilgrims were in America many died of (starvation, stuffing, harvest).
  9. Thanks to the Indians, the Pilgrims learned to (feast, annual, survive).
  10. It is traditional to decorate stores and homes with turkeys, Pilgrims, and (wreaths, stuffing, elderly) of dried flowers and plants.

Complete each sentence.

  1. The winter in New York can be too cold for old people. It can be too cold for the ____________.
  2. People can die if they do not eat food for a long time. They can die of ____________.
  3. Some people like to prepare tomatoes with tuna and mayonnaise inside them. They like ____________ in the tomatoes.
  4. The flower shop sent a big circle made out of flowers, leaves and a ribbon. They sent a ____________.
  5. The people who got lost in the mountains stayed alive for ten days without food. They ____________ for ten days.
  6. Birthdays are celebrated every year. A birthday is an ____________ celebration.
  7. Many people work on farms to collect fruits and vegetables. They come for the ____________.
  8. The 4th of July is the day to celebrate the independence of the U.S.A. The ____________ of Independence is on July 4th.
  9. The family had a big meal to celebrate their reunion. They had a ____________.
  10. You can find people from many different religions in the United States. The United States has people of many ____________ .

Ask questions about the sentences below.

People of all faiths celebrate Thanksgiving in November.

  1. Who _______________________________________________________________________
  2. When ______________________________________________________________________
  3. What ______________________________________________________________________

The most famous Thanksgiving event in New York City is the Thanksgiving Day Parade. At the end of the parade Santa Claus arrives. People watching the parade feel excited and happy.

  1. What______________________________________________________________________
  2. When______________________________________________________________________
  3. Who  ______________________________________________________________________
  4. How  ______________________________________________________________________
  5. Which Thanksgiving event ________________________________________________________

Charitable organizations send food to the needy and elderly.

  1. What kind ___________________________________________________________________
  2. What ______________________________________________________________________
  3. To whom ___________________________________________________________________

Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national day of observance by Congress in 1941.

  1. What______________________________________________________________________
  2. When _____________________________________________________________________
  3. By whom ___________________________________________________________________
  4. Which holiday _______________________________________________________________

Fill in the blanks with words:

national        celebrated         proclaimed       editor         magazine             support           country        centuries       holiday            campaign        governors        parts         articles          Thursday


The Pilgrims (1)_____________ the first Thanksgiving in 1621.  For over two (2) _____________ days of Thanksgiving were held at various times in different (3) _____________ of the (4) _____________ . In 1827, Sara Josepha Hale, (5) _____________  of a popular ladies’ (6) _____________, began a (7) _____________ to have Thanksgiving Day celebrated as a national (8) _____________ . For many years, she wrote (9) _____________ for the magazine and sent letters to the President, (10) _____________, and other important people. She finally won the (11) _____________ of President Abraham Lincoln.  In 1863, he (12) _____________ that the last (13) _____________ in November should be observed as a (14) _____________ day of Thanksgiving.