The American Thanksgiving
America celebrates Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November every year. When we think of Thanksgiving, a spread of turkey roast and desserts come in front of our eyes. And, not to forget, the Thanksgiving special episodes of FRIENDS with Chandler complaining against the festivities. However, the real history of thanksgiving goes back to the 17th century. Like most of our festivals, this has a religious background, and also a unique annual event for a get-together. The history behind thanksgiving is related to celebrating the harvest and blessings of the previous year.
Like most of the festivals of the world, thanksgiving also has a story that is rich in legend and symbolism. A sumptuous meal is the central part of this holiday. More so, because the true history of thanksgiving itself centres on a feast. A thanksgiving meal usually comprises roast turkey, bread stuffing, cranberries, potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Family members come together during this time, and hence it is also one of the busiest holidays of the year with massive traffic. The United States will celebrate its National Thanksgiving Day on the 26th of November this year.
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How did thanksgiving start?
The history of thanksgiving traces back to the early 17th century when the English colonists of Plymouth and the people of Wampanoag organized a harvest feast. So, to be precise, the first-ever American thanksgiving was the 1621 thanksgiving. The colonizers were called the pilgrims. They were a group of religious separatists sailing to Plymouth in a ship, Mayflower. The Mayflower carried 102 passengers. This group of colonizers was looking for a place to practice faith freely and dreamt of owning lands in the New World. The pilgrims celebrate their second Thanksgiving, to establish the end of a drought. It was long, threatening and severely affected the year’s harvest. The pilgrims also managed to rope in Governor Bradford to summon religious fasting for the celebration. This way, very soon, celebrations of fasting and thanksgiving became common and an annual or occasional event in more New England settlements too.
Who was at the first thanksgiving?
The true history of thanksgiving is intertwined with an old incident. The colonists of Plymouth went out to hunt for turkeys, but they eventually only caught hold geese and ducks. They hunted a lot, enough to sustain them for a week. Consequently, around 90 people of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe appeared in front of their settlement’s gate, making the colonists uncomfortable. This paved the way for the extravagant Thanksgiving Day, for centuries to come. The two groups started socializing, and the native Wampanoag contributed to the feast with varieties of meat, vegetables, stews, and beer. It was a weeklong festival with races, fire guns, and drinking bars. There is no record of the exact menu of the 1621 Thanksgiving. Still, historians opined that many delicacies were made using the traditional spices of native America. Their cooking methods were also local with no oven. This history of the first thanksgiving also led to the signing of a treaty between these two groups. It was maintained until King Philip’s War in 1675.
The origin of thanksgiving holiday
New York was the first among many states to officially adopt a Thanksgiving holiday on an annual basis in the year 1817. Each state celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday on a different day. The Southern states of America, however, was still majorly unfamiliar with the American Thanksgiving tradition. Church leaders and the Parish mostly made the official Thanksgiving proclamations in New England up until the year 1682. In the following years, both state heads and church leaders made Thanksgiving proclamations to the rise of the great American Revolution.
As the first President of the United States, George Washington suggested the very first nationwide thanksgiving celebration in America. This marked November 26, 1789, as a national day of public thanksgiving and prayer to the Almighty God. The famous writer and eminent magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale, began a campaign aiming to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Sarah Josepha Hale championed her cause for 36 years. She published several editorials and sent countless letters to governors, presidents, senators, politicians, and other state heads and officials. Her efforts earned her the nickname the “Mother of Thanksgiving.” Nevertheless, with the advent of the revolutionary period, socio-political events majorly affected Thanksgiving proclamations. Royal governors like General George Washington, John Hancock, and the Continental Congress gave thanks to Almighty God for events that favoured their agendas in the name of thanksgiving.
Since the American Uniform, Monday Holiday Act came into effect in 1971. The American observance of Columbus Day amazingly coincided with the Canadian observance of Thanksgiving. Presently, Thanksgiving day is a national holiday. Countries like the United States and Canada, Brazil, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia celebrate it on different dates. The sub-national regions of Norfolk Island, Puerto Rico, and Leiden also celebrates this festival.