In the US, Thanksgiving Day has become a recognized national holiday, and in 2022 it falls on November 24. A fall harvest feast that the Wampanoag and Plymouth colonists had in 1621 is remembered today for being one of the earliest Thanksgiving festivities in the colonies. Individual colonies as well as states observed days of thanksgiving for more than 200 years. President Abraham Lincoln didn’t declare a nationwide Thanksgiving Day to be celebrated each November until 1863 when the Civil War was still raging.
A small vessel by the name of the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth, England, in September 1620 with 102 people on board. Diverse religious separatists looking for a new place to call home where they could exercise their faith freely, as well as others, are drawn to the “New World” by its promise of wealth and property ownership. They dropped anchor on the coast of Cape Cod, well north of his intended objective at the entrance of the Hudson River, after a perilous and miserable 66-day voyage. The Mayflower entered Massachusetts Bay a month later, and the Pilgrims, even though they are now referred to, started the process of building a colony at Plymouth.
What Distinguishes Puritans from Pilgrims?
The majority of the colonists stayed on the ship throughout that first, dreadful winter, where they endured exposure, scurvy, and epidemics of infectious diseases. Only fifty percent of the original Mayflower passengers and crew experienced their maiden New England spring. The last of the settlers arrived on the shore in March, in which they were hailed by a member of something like the Abenaki community who spoke to them in English.
A few days later, Charles returned with Squanto, a Pawtuxet tribesman who had been captured by an English ship captain as well as sold into slavery prior to escaping to London as well as making an exploring trip back to his own land. Squanto instructed the Pilgrims, who were weak from illness and famine, on how to grow maize, gather maple tree sap, buy fish in the rivers, and stay away from toxic plants. The Wampanoag, a neighboring tribe, and the settlers also formed an alliance, which lasted for more than 50 years as well as regrettably is still one of the only instances of peace between European colonists with Native Americans.
Governor William Bradford hosted a feast in celebration of the Pilgrims’ first successful corn harvest in November 1621 and invited a number of the colony’s Native American friends, including Wampanoag leader Massasoit. The three-day event is now recognized as the “first Thanksgiving” in American history, despite the fact that the Pilgrims themselves might not have coined the phrase at the time. Although there is no known record of the first Thanksgiving’s exact meal, Edward Winslow, a Pilgrim historian, is largely responsible for what we know about what transpired there.
Several of the dishes may have been made using customary Native American seasonings and cooking techniques, according to historians. Pies, cakes, and other desserts, that have come to symbolize modern festivities, were absent from the supper since the Pilgrims did not have an oven and the Mayflower’s sugar supply had run out by the fall of 1621.
Participants in the First Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is recognized as a public holiday. In 1623, the Pilgrims celebrated their second Thanksgiving to commemorate the end of a protracted drought that had imperiled the crop and forced Governor Bradford to order a religious fast. In those other New England colonies as well, annual or sporadic days of fasting, as well as thankfulness, were customary.
The Continental Congress established one or more periods of thanksgiving each year during this same American Revolution, and in 1789 President Washington released the nation’s first Thanksgiving proclamation. In it, he urged people to express their appreciation for the peaceful end to the nation’s war of independence as well as the successful ratification of something like the U.S. Constitution. During their terms in office, John Adams but also James Madison declared days of gratitude as well. The first state to formally approve an official Thanksgiving holiday was New York in 1817. Since each state observed it on a unique day, the American South was mostly unaware of the custom.
Thanksgiving customs and traditions
The focus of Thanksgiving celebrations in many American homes has shifted away from the holiday’s traditional religious importance and toward the preparation and sharing of a hearty feast with loved ones. When the Pilgrims threw the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621, turkey may but rather may not have appeared on the menu. Turkey has since become such a mainstay of the holiday that it is now almost synonymous with it.
Today, however, the National Turkey Association reports that around 90% of Americans consume the turkey on Thanksgiving, whether it be roasted, baked, or deep-fried. Stuffing, roast potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie are further typical dishes. Thanksgiving Day volunteering is a traditional tradition, and localities frequently arrange food drives and provide free meals for those who are fortunate.
In towns and cities all around the United States, parades have also developed into a crucial component of the celebration. The Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City, which has been hosted by Macy’s department company since 1924, is the biggest and most well-known, gathering between 2 and 3 million spectators over its 2.5-mile route and sizable television viewership. Marching bands, performers, ornate floats carrying various celebrities, and enormous balloons in the style of cartoon characters are frequently included.
The president of the USA has “pardoned” one or more Thanksgiving turkeys every year since the middle of the 20th century, and maybe even earlier. This prevents the turkeys from being slaughtered and sends them to a sanctuary for retirement. The yearly turkey pardoning tradition is also carried out by a number of American governors.
If the supper at Plymouth actually counted as the country’s first Thanksgiving, the debate among academics is still open. In fact, historical research has revealed that European colonists in North America held different thanksgiving rituals before the Pilgrims’ celebration. For example, Pedro Menéndez de Avilé, a Spanish explorer, held a mass at St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565 to thank God for the safe arrival of his crew. He then invited members of the indigenous Timucua tribe to a feast. The day was declared “a time of thanksgiving to God Almighty” in a proclamation that was read by the 38 British immigrants who arrived at Berkeley Hundreds on December 4, 1619, on the shores of Virginia’s James River.
Thanksgiving’s Early History
The origins of Thanksgiving in America can be found in the other part of the Atlantic, despite the fact that the holiday originated in the New England colonies. Days of fasting during trying or crucial times, and days of feasting with a celebration to give thanks to God in times of plenty, were traditions of providential holidays that were brought over by both the Separatists that came aboard the Mayflower as well as the Puritans who followed shortly after.
Furthermore, Thanksgiving belongs to a category of holidays that spans nations, countries, and millennia as an anniversary party of the harvest as well as its riches. After the fall harvest, the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans gorged and offered sacrifices to their gods. The ancient Jewish festival celebrated of Sukkot and Thanksgiving are similar. Finally, historians have noticed that long before Europeans stepped foot on American soil, Native Americans used to have a rich custom of celebrating the fall harvest through feasting and revelry.