Thanksgiving is the USA's greatest holiday - laid-back, big meals, football on TV, and no guilt over bad gift choices. The four-day break has origins in 1621, when Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts met with Wampanoag to celebrate a good harvest - and, some say, learn how to catch eel.

For most Americans these days, the holiday simply means traveling home. But if you really want to get to the heart of Thanksgiving - and who doesn't? - it may require a few more miles.

Origin of the name: Plymouth, England

Sure the first 'Pilgrimified' Thanksgiving was in Plymouth, Massachusetts. But what about its namesake? On the other side of the Atlantic, Plymouth - a town LP author Belinda Dixon likens to reality TV: gritty but fun - is home to the Mayflower Steps, where the famed Mayflower set off from in 1620. Plymouth also said so long to voyages by Sir Francis Drake, Charles Darwin and Captain Cook. An easy way to go nautical here is via ferry to Mount Batten for £3 return.

Thanksgiving Turkey: Abidjan, Ivory Coast

No one's 100% sure why the turkey, a North American bird,  is called 'turkey'. According to this NPR report, 'turkey' (or 'far away') was used to describe things from India or the Middle East - like teas, pants, or birds. One fowl that had made it to England was the guinea fowl from West Africa (originally called the 'turkey coq'). A good place for it, served as kedjenou is Abidjan's Galerie Kajazoma - our favorite eatery in the capital. Just don't expect cranberries.

The hat: El Camino de Santiago, Spain

The 'Nike swoop' of Thanksgiving - ie its most enduring symbol - is the funny 'Pilgrim hat'. That tubby hat actually has its origins as the 'sugar loaf' or capotain, first worn on the mother of pilgrimages: Spain's El Camino de Santiago. Don't expect buckled hats here - even the American Pilgrims didn't add decorative buckles until 50 years after the first Thanksgiving. (For more on the hat, see my video with live cows from last year.)

The parade: Philadelphia

New York's Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade gets all the national US coverage, but it's not America's oldest parade that hits the streets on the fourth Thursday of November. Philadelphia's is older. Now called, you ready for this? The 6abc IKEA Thanksgiving Day Parade began in 1920 and runs down Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Hey, that's the same bloke who wanted the turkey to be the national bird.

To see more of America, get Lonely Planet's USA's Best Trips: 99 Themed Itineraries Across America.

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