For those who need a refresher on Thanksgiving, www.History.com gives an amazing description on how the holiday began,
Thanksgiving at Plymouth
In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth,
England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists
seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and
other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership
in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that
lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north
of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One
month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.
Did You Know? Lobster, seal and swans were on the Pilgrims' menu.Throughout
that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the
ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of
contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and
crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the
remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing
visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days
later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of
the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and
sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his
homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims,
weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap
from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants.
He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a
local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically
remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists
and Native Americans.
In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford
organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling
colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief
Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although
the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the
festival lasted for three days. While no record exists of the historic
banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his
journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in
preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing
five deer. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were
likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking
methods. Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s sugar
supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, the meal did not feature pies,
cakes or other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary
celebrations.Check out the Thanksgiving by the Numbers infographic for more facts about how the first Thanksgiving compares to modern holiday traditions.
Thanksgiving Becomes an Official Holiday
Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in 1623 to mark
the end of a long drought that had threatened the year’s harvest and
prompted Governor Bradford to call for a religious fast. Days of fasting
and thanksgiving on an annual or occasional basis became common
practice in other New England settlements as well. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year, and in 1789 George Washington
issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government
of the United States; in it, he called upon Americans to express their
gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence
and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. His successors
John Adams and James Madison also designated days of thanks during their presidencies.In 1817, New York
became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual
Thanksgiving holiday; each celebrated it on a different day, however,
and the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition.
In 1827, the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha
Hale—author, among countless other things, of the nursery rhyme “Mary
Had a Little Lamb”—launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a
national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and
sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other
politicians. Abraham Lincoln
finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a
proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his
tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or
sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the
nation.” He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November,
and it was celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt
moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during
the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan, known derisively as
Franksgiving, was met with passionate opposition, and in 1941 the
president reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth
Thursday in November.
In many American households, the Thanksgiving celebration has lost
much of its original religious significance; instead, it now centers on
cooking and sharing a bountiful meal with family and friends. Turkey, a
Thanksgiving staple so ubiquitous it has become all but synonymous with
the holiday, may or may not have been on offer when the Pilgrims hosted
the inaugural feast in 1621. Today, however, nearly 90 percent of
Americans eat the bird—whether roasted, baked or deep-fried—on
Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation. Other
traditional foods include stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and
pumpkin pie. Volunteering is a common Thanksgiving Day activity, and
communities often hold food drives and host free dinners for the less
Parades have also become an integral part of the holiday in cities
and towns across the United States. Presented by Macy’s department store
since 1924, New York City’s Thanksgiving Day parade is the largest and
most famous, attracting some 2 to 3 million spectators along its
2.5-mile route and drawing an enormous television audience. It typically
features marching bands, performers, elaborate floats conveying various
celebrities and giant balloons shaped like cartoon characters.
Beginning in the mid-20th century and perhaps even earlier, the
president of the United States has “pardoned” one or two Thanksgiving
turkeys each year, sparing the birds from slaughter and sending them to a
farm for retirement. A number of U.S. governors also perform the annual
turkey pardoning ritual.
For some scholars, the jury is still out on whether the feast at
Plymouth really constituted the first Thanksgiving in the United States.
Indeed, historians have recorded other ceremonies of thanks among
European settlers in North America that predate the Pilgrims’
celebration. In 1565, for instance, the Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez
de Avilé invited members of the local Timucua tribe to a dinner in St.
after holding a mass to thank God for his crew’s safe arrival. On
December 4, 1619, when 38 British settlers reached a site known as
Berkeley Hundred on the banks of Virginia’s James River, they read a
proclamation designating the date as “a day of thanksgiving to Almighty
Some Native Americans and others take issue with how the Thanksgiving
story is presented to the American public, and especially to
schoolchildren. In their view, the traditional narrative paints a
deceptively sunny portrait of relations between the Pilgrims and the
Wampanoag people, masking the long and bloody history of conflict
between Native Americans and European settlers that resulted in the
deaths of millions. Since 1970, protesters have gathered on the day
designated as Thanksgiving at the top of Cole’s Hill, which overlooks
Plymouth Rock, to commemorate a “National Day of Mourning.” Similar
events are held in other parts of the country.
Thanksgiving’s Ancient Origins
Although the American concept of Thanksgiving developed in the
colonies of New England, its roots can be traced back to the other side
of the Atlantic. Both the Separatists who came over on the Mayflower and
the Puritans who arrived soon after brought with them a tradition of
providential holidays—days of fasting during difficult or pivotal
moments and days of feasting and celebration to thank God in times of
As an annual celebration of the harvest and its bounty, moreover,
Thanksgiving falls under a category of festivals that spans cultures,
continents and millennia. In ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks and
Romans feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest.
Thanksgiving also bears a resemblance to the ancient Jewish harvest
festival of Sukkot. Finally, historians have noted that Native Americans
had a rich tradition of commemorating the fall harvest with feasting
and merrymaking long before Europeans set foot on their shores.
Author:Ciearra Harless Phone: 214-536-6362 Dated: November 20th 2014 Views: 2,419 About Ciearra: About Halo
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