The Origins of Thanksgiving Day

The Origins of Thanksgiving Day

The Origins of Thanksgiving Day

The original celebration of Thanksgiving Day happened during the sixteenth century. There are three historical origins of the feast. One was the early European settlers of the new world. When they first arrived in the New World, they were still determining what kind of food would grow in their new environment.

They started eating corn because it increased, and they thought it tasted pretty good. Another reason was that Europeans believed that food was a gift from God. As they were struggling in the wilderness and starving, they thought that food was a blessing from God.

Finally, the pilgrims were grateful for the food that they had. They felt lucky because they had been able to survive in the new land.

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Initial Thanksgiving

The first Thanksgiving's history has been the focus of intense discussion for many years. Most historians believe that the first Thanksgiving took place in 1621. Some historians argue that the Mayflower pilgrims had their first Thanksgiving feast in 1620, but this was just a religious feast.

In addition, many believe that the original Thanksgiving feast was not the first one in America, but rather it happened elsewhere in the world. Finally, a few historians argue that it happened in the year 1565, which is a long time ago.

Undoubtedly, people celebrated Thanksgiving at least twice before that year. They celebrated the holiday at Christmas, and the Puritans celebrated it in 1621.

Every president following that declared it a national holiday, except for a few, on the final Thursday in November. To improve the economy and extend the Christmas shopping season, which typically starts with the Thanksgiving holiday, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed back the date to the third week of November.

Then, though not all states followed through, Roosevelt proclaimed in 1942 recognizing the fourth Thursday in November—not typically the last Thursday—as Thanksgiving Day in response to a joint resolution of Congress passed in 1941.

The truth about the first Thanksgiving

The United States East Coast was home to numerous Native American tribes for a very long time before immigrants arrived. The Wampanoag people lived in the region around. Currently known as southeast Massachusetts and eastern Rhode Island, the first Thanksgiving occurred here.

Other European settlers had already passed through before the Mayflower arrived in 1620. The local population had been fishing, hunting, and gathering for thousands of years, so they were familiar with the area.

The Settlers

Puritans are a group of English Protestants. Sought to secede from the Church of England and formed the Plymouth Colony. Initially, these "separatists" settled in Holland. However, they acquired funds from English merchants to travel after 12 years of financial difficulties.

The Mayflower set out on its 66-day voyage over the ocean carrying 101 men, women, and children with the intention of landing where New York City is now. However, windy circumstances compelled the company to end its journey early and make camp near what is now Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

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Stability and Discovery

The Puritans grabbed whatever they could find, including Wampanoag supplies, as they prepared for the winter. One day, the Abenaki chief Samoset and Tisquantum, often known as Squanto, paid a visit to the settlers. Wampanoag Squanto was an English-speaking native who had interacted with other immigrants before.

Squanto assisted the colonists in raising corn and using fish as fertilizer for their fields. The Europeans and the natives reached a formal agreement after numerous meetings, and in March 1621, they banded together to defend one another from other tribes.

The Celebration

The Native Americans quickly concluded that the English were merely hunting for the harvest festival after their visit. For three days, the English and native men, women, and children shared a meal after Massasoit dispatched some of his men to hunt deer for the feast. In contrast to the modern Thanksgiving feast, the meal included roasted beef, maize, seafood, and deer. They sang, danced, and played games.

Although prayers and Thanksgiving were likely offered at the 1621 harvest festival, Plymouth's first-ever religious Thanksgiving Day only occurred two years later, in 1623. The colonists were grateful to God on this particular occasion for rain following a two-month drought. 

The Present Thanksgiving

The present Thanksgiving holiday began to take shape in the 19th century. Campaigning for a yearly national Thanksgiving holiday started in 1846 under the leadership of Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of the publication Godey's Lady's Book. However, it wasn't until 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln established two national Thanksgiving celebrations: one in August to honor the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg and another in November to express gratitude for "universal blessings." Today, we commemorate the second one".

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How turkey became the main dish

One of the Thanksgiving foods that can be directly linked to the first Thanksgiving is turkey. The fifth edition of Holiday and Symbols states that it is possible that the pilgrims and Native Americans hunted and prepared wild birds like geese, ducks, and turkey. However, early American settlers rapidly turned to the natural giant bird as a reliable food source because it was effortless to catch.

In contrast to the cooking techniques, it is unknown if the turkey was braised, roasted on a spit, or boiled in a big kettle at that harvest celebration. However, the leftovers from any birds roasted one day were placed in a pot and then cooked to create a gravy-like soup for the next day.

Thanksgiving In Canada 

The Thanksgiving Day tradition is also celebrated in Canada. They have Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday of November. People go to work as usual, but many stores will be closed. Instead, most Americans will be in their houses, eating a delicious meal. They will be thankful for the blessings of life, and they will spend time with their families.

In Canada, people will celebrate Thanksgiving Day with their families. It is a beautiful day to celebrate together. They will also watch football games and enjoy a delicious meal.

Thanksgiving Day is not just a holiday for Americans, but it is also a holiday for Canadians. On this day, people will celebrate their family's success and love. Canadians will also be thankful for their friends and their neighbours.

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What to expect on Thanksgiving in the U.S

Thanksgiving Day is an American holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. It is the nation's second most widely observed national holiday. It is an official U.S. public holiday, so people expect that many businesses will be closed, and some stores will also be closed.

Many Americans will travel to their favorite places for Thanksgiving dinner. For example, many people will go to their family's house to celebrate Thanksgiving. Some people will also go out for a good meal.

They will probably go out to eat Thanksgiving dinner. Most Americans will also watch football and eat a turkey dinner. Some will celebrate by attending church to sing hymns and say prayers for the Thanksgiving Day meal.

When you think of Thanksgiving, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? It is the all-American festivity in autumn where everything is decorated with orange hues fallen leaves and giant turkeys wearing a hat?

Or do you imagine the typical scene of every holiday special show or movie with the family reunion, the drama and funny stories along with a big table with the sights of sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, bread rolls, and the famous pair: The big roasted turkey and the sweet pumpkin pie? Sounds nice, right? But, what if we tell you that this scene wasn’t always the reality?

Buckle up, it’s history time.

As all stories go, the history of thanksgiving started with a journey. It was the year 1620 and the first settlers from England had just arrived at a place that is now known as Plymouth, in the USA. Even when the land was plenty with native fruits, nuts, deer, game birds, and fish, no one knew how to hunt or fish or how to prepare and eat all of this.

But, how did they survive? Easy, they weren’t the “first” in that land, the Wampanoag tribe had been living in those lands centuries before the arrival of the Mayflower and were key to their survival. It is said that their leader “Massasoit” met with the colonist several times to set how each group could learn and leave with each other.

This led to the famous gathering of 1621 in which Massasoit and the tribe were invited to celebrate a great harvest, of course, thanks to the teachings of the tribe. Everyone participated and helped with the preparation of the food, but according to historians, this was not similar to the modern-day feast of Thanksgiving, no, there wasn’t turkey nor cranberry sauce neither mashed potatoes.

No, this was most likely to be a feast of eels, oysters, wild onions and leeks, nuts, berries, squash, wine, and cornmeal. It is sad to think that all this peace would come to an end in less than 60 years. Fortunately, this started some sort of holiday that survived in the New England territory for 200 years.

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But, why do we celebrate this?

Well… we have to give thanks to Sarah Hale, editor of the Boston Ladies’ Magazine in 1860 for that. She proposed an annual day set aside for the people to reflect on their heritage and give thanks for their fortune.

For more than 17 years she wrote to five presidents to petition this feast to be observed as a national holiday and finally in 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November to be a national holiday in commemoration of this feast of unity and gratitude.

However, in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression was met with such great opposition that in 1941 the president reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.

In modern-day American households, thanksgiving has lost a big part of the religious tone, changing to a holiday centered on cooking and sharing a meal with family and friends. Also, it is as common as the football games and the parades (like the Macy’s parade in NYC) volunteering is a common activity and communities and churches often have host free dinners for the less fortunate.

Did you know?

A little of trivia, the U.S. isn’t the only country that celebrates Thanksgiving: Canada celebrates it the second Monday of October, and it shares many traditions such as the turkey dinner and the football matches.

Another country that celebrates it is Germany, on the first Sunday of October, but the difference lays in that this version of thanksgiving focuses most on giving thanks for the harvest with processions of the produce to the church and with feasts of chicken and rooster.

Another place that celebrates thanksgiving is Norfolk Island, now an Australian territory, thanks to their American Consul Isaac Robinson in 1887, when he died at sea, the people carried on with the tradition.

Although they celebrate it con the last Wednesday of November instead of Thursday, they decorate the church with tall stalks of corn, fruits, and vegetable and feast on an assortment of roast meat, banana dishes, and the typical American pumpkin pie. 

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Another final fact: since the mid-20th century and perhaps even earlier, the President of the United States has “pardoned” a Thanksgiving turkey each year, sparing the birds from slaughter and sending them to a farm for retirement. It is said that the first one to do that was JKF, but it was established as a tradition by George H. W. Bush.

Now that you know a little more about the origin of this holiday, you can start planning the decoration, menu, and activities to commemorate it with your loved ones. You can visit our store to find decorations and products with which you can decorate and give away on Thanksgiving.

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