Almost in every culture in the world there is a celebration of thanks for rich harvest. The American Thanksgiving began as a feast of thanksgiving almost four hundred years ago.
In 1620, a religious community sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to settle in New World. They settled in what is not known as the state of
Massachusetts. Their first winter in America was difficult. They arrived too late to grow a rich harvest. Moreover, half the Iroquois Indians taught them also how to grow other crops and how to hunt and fish.
In the autumn of 1621 they got a beautiful harvest of corn, barley, beans and pumpkins. The colonists had much to be thankful for, so they planned a feast. The colonists learned from Indians how to cook cranberries and dishes of corn and pumpkins.
In following years many of the colonists celebrated the harvest with a feast of thanks. After the United States gained independence, Congress recommended one yearly day of thanksgiving for the whole country. Later,
George Washington suggested the date November 26 as Thanksgiving Day. Then, after the civil war, Abraham Lincoln suggested the last Thursday in
November to be the day of thanksgiving.
On Thanksgiving Day, family members gather at the house of an older relative, even if they live far away. All give thanks for everything good they have. Charitable organizations offer traditional meal to the homeless.
Foods, eaten at the first thanksgiving, have become traditional. The traditional thanksgiving meal consists of roast turkey stuffed with herb- flavored bread, cranberry jelly, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie. Other dishes may vary as to region: ham, sweet, potatoes, creamed corn.
A Celebration of Thanksgiving
The origins of Thanksgiving predated the Pilgrims at least 2,000 years.
After the harvest of each year was safely stored for the winter, Celtic priests, the Druids, would mark the end of their calendar with prayers to their sun god for protection during the period of darkness and cold of winter. These harvest festivals evolved and became combined with a
Christian Feast of Saints.
The first formal celebration of Thanksgiving in North America was held by an English explorer, Martin Frobisher, who attempted to establish an
English settlement on Baffin Island, after failing to discover a northern passage to the Orient in 1576. Canada established the second Monday in
October as a national holiday, "a day of general thanksgiving," in 1957.
The Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock held their Thanksgiving in 1621 as a three day "thank you" celebration to the leaders of the Wampanoag Indian tribe and their families for teaching them the survival skills they needed to make it in the New World. It was their good fortune that the tradition of the Wampanoags was to treat any visitor to their homes with a share of whatever food the family had, even if supplies were low. It was also an amazing stroke of luck that one of the Wampanoag, Tisquantum or Squanto, had become close friends with a British explorer, John Weymouth, and had learned the Pilgrim's language in his travels to England with Weymouth.
Wild turkey was on the menu, along with corn (Pilgrim's wheat), Indian corn, barley, peas, waterfowl, five deer (brought by the Indians as their dish to pass), bass and cod. Since then, we've added such delicacies as ham, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, popcorn, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. What? Pumpkin pie is not authentic? The Pilgrims probably made pumpkin pudding sweetened with honey, but they didn't have sugar, crust or whipped topping. Life was tough back then.
The turkey tradition was really pushed by Benjamin Franklin, who wanted to make it the United States national symbol because it is a quick runner, wary, with sharp eyesight, and exhibited a regal stance, at least to
Franklin. While the bald eagle nudged out the wild turkey for our official national symbol, Norman Rockwell has probably made the image of the family
Thanksgiving turkey even more famous, and certainly more mouth watering.
The actual day we celebrate Thanksgiving in America was picked by our presidents, starting with George Washington who declared a one-time holiday. Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November to be
"...a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens." Franklin D. Roosevelt moved it to the fourth Thursday of
November in 1939, to prevent a 5 week November from shortening the
Christmas shopping season.
T for time to be together, turkey, talk, and tangy weather.
H for harvest stored away, home, and hearth, and holiday.
A for autumn's frosty art, and abundance in the heart.
N for neighbours, and October, nice things, new things to remember.