Plymouth's statue of Massasoit, who was instrumental in Plymouth Colony's survival, looks out over the Plymouth Rock monument. Image via SeePlymouth.com.
Thanksgiving will be observed on Thursday, Nov. 26. The day is a national holiday inspired by the first Thanksgiving dinner shared between the Pilgrims and Wampanoags in 1621 at Plymouth. The living history museum Plimoth Pawtuxet continues the tradition each year with a recreation of the event in which visitors can participate. This year will include COVID-19 restrictions.
Thanksgiving was first federally recognized by proclamation in 1863 by President Lincoln at the height of the Civil War. It did not become codified as a national holiday until 1941, when President Roosevelt signed a law setting it as the fourth Thursday of November. Canada holds a similar celebration on the second Monday in October.
The day is not celebrated by all. Some Native Americans consider it a Day of Mourning because of the massive disruption the advent of European settlers caused to the first Americans through disease, land theft and war. The United American Indians of New England gather annually in Plymouth at the statue of Wampanoag leader Massasoit and a nearby plaque commemorating the National Day of Mourning.
More locally, the day marks the anniversary of the completion of the Hoosac Tunnel. It was on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27, 1874, that the final bit of rock was blasted out in the town of Florida to open what was then the longest rail tunnel in the world.
It was a couple of days after Thanksgiving in 1965 that folk-rock legend Arlo Guthrie was arrested for littering in Stockbridge, sparking the famous song "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" about the Thanksgiving feast and its consequences. The Arlo Guthrie Center in Housatonic has offered a community Thanksgiving dinner every year to commemorate the event and Guthrie often performs the song locally, although this may not happen in 2020.
The Friday after Thanksgiving, popularly known as Black Friday, is considered the start of the Christmas shopping season marked with special discounts at retailers. The reference is believed to date to at least the early 1960s, but Black Friday deals have begun to creep into the holiday with stores opening with special discounts before and even on the day of Thanksgiving.
Federal, state and local offices; no mail delivery.
Most offices and businesses
BRTA is not running
Colleges and schools
Liquor & package stores
Restaurants and bars, by choice
Some retail outlets have full or partial hours
Retail outlets open; many chains have early and late-night hours
Federal, state and local offices; mail delivery.
BRTA running; office closed
Most businesses open
Schools and colleges
Many local and state offices
MassDOT is discouraging travel because of the novel coronavirus. There may be limited public amenities on trips because of the pandemic. In addition, travelers should pack essential items including face coverings, and, if visiting specific states, travelers will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon return to Massachusetts.
"As per the CDC's strong recommendation, we are asking people not to travel for Thanksgiving because of Covid-19," said Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver, adding, "But if you must be on the roadway, you are advised to plan ahead, minimize stops, be aware of all out-of-state quarantine requirements, wear a face covering if you are traveling with someone not living in your household, and take all necessary precautions to protect yourself and your family."