Friday, November 14, 2014

History of Thanksgiving

In today's world Thanksgiving seems to have lost it's true meaning as to why we celebrate it. I feel that most of use sort of remember that it has something to do with the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, but past that I feel it is completely lost.

So, during this month I decided to take the time to research Thanksgiving and share what I have learned about this fantastic day.

(Photo courtesy of: Pelfusion)

Does anyone remember that this whole shindig began way back in 1621? Neither did I!!! The first dinner was held by the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians

But is wasn't until 1863, during the Civil War, that President Lincoln originally declared the fourth Thursday in November as national Thanksgiving Day. This would later be changed to the third Thursday, but we will get to that later.

(Photos courtesy of: Wikipedia, The Smithsonian, & Inkspired Musings)

Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay is our backdrop, a small ship named the Mayflower left Plymouth, England in 1620 with only 102 people on board. 

After a very harsh 66 day journey they eventually made it to America and began settling in the village of Plymouth. However, the first year brought horrible hardships and the villagers ended up staying on the ship throughout the winter. 

This caused its own problems because the settlers suffered from exposure to the elements, scurvy and outbreaks of other contagious diseases. By the end of that first winter only half of the original settlers had actually survived.

(Photo courtesy of: Bible Scripture)

But when did the local group of Native Americans enter the picture? Aha, I have that answer too.....

In 1621 the Pilgrim's successfully harvested their first corn. Because of this Governor William Bradford decide to celebrate and invited a group of Wampanoag Indians, including their chief, Chief Massasoit. Cool fact: the first Thanksgiving lasted 3 days! 

The menu for the meal is said to have included: fowl, deer (from the Indian's) and was prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Because the Mayflower's sugar supply had been greatly depleted the previous winter there was nothing sweet served. 

(Photo courtesy of: Acres of Hope)

Now for some dates and other facts leading us up to what we know today as Thanksgiving. 

The second celebration was held in 1623 and helped the Pilgrims mark the end of a long period of drought. Governor Bradford felt that days of fasting and thanks on an annual basis should become common practice. 

During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress said there should be more than one designated day for thanks, and in 1789 President Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation

Jump forward 28 years and we discover that New York became the first of several states to adopt Thanksgiving as an official annual holiday. It is also noted that in 1827, Sarah Josepha Hale was a major campaigner for making it a holiday nation wide.

As I mentioned earlier, President Lincoln declared that Thanksgiving would be the fourth Thursday of November, and it was celebrated on that day until 1939 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to move it up to the third Thursday. Originally he did this to help boost revenue during the Great Depression but was met with opposition from the public and in 1941 moved the holiday back to the fourth Thursday.

(Photo courtesy of: Kitchen Daily)

While the holiday has come to be a wonderful day for spending time with our loved ones, in many American homes the significance has been lost. This is so sad, all the younger generations are not learning why we actually have this wonderful day. 

Turkey, while it may not have been eaten during the original feast, is now eaten in over 90% of American households during this particular day. Also, over the years it is very common for people to volunteer on or around Thanksgiving Day as a way of showing their thanks and caring for the people around them.

Another staple of what the holiday has become today, Parades!!! Especially the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade which airs every year on Thanksgiving morning!!! IT IS MY FAVORITE!!!  

The Macy's Parade began in 1924. This is the largest and most popular parade, generally attracting 2-3 million viewers along it's 2.5 mile trip through New York City. 

Another fun fact about Thanksgiving: sometime in the mid-20th century the President (at the time) began "pardoning" between 1-2 turkeys a year from being slaughtered. These birds would them be sent to a safe farm for "retirement". This tradition is still carried on today by a number of U.S. governors.

Thanksgiving hasn't always been happy. It has seen it's share of controversies, for example: some scholars believe that the feast at Plymouth may not have really been the first Thanksgiving. 

There is documentation that shows that settlers predating the Pilgrims had celebrations of thanks. For instance, in 1565 a Spanish explorer by the name of Pedro Menendez de Avile invited members of the Timucua tribe to a dinner in St. Augustine, Florida

Then you have the fact that some members of the Native American culture believe that the Thanksgiving story is grossly misrepresented. They believe that the "White People" left out the fact that there was a very long and bloody history of conflict between them and the Pilgrims. 

(Photo courtesy of: Ortho Cuban)

Since 1970, people still gather at the top of Cole's Hill to protest the holiday and make it a day of mourning.

Let's talk about the possibility that Thanksgiving may have began in ancient times. We are talking the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans; they would feast in order to pay tribute to their respected gods after each fall harvest. 

Thanksgiving also has many features in common with the Jewish festival know as Sukkot. But many historians believe that the Native Americans practiced some version of the holiday way before the Pilgrims ever even arrived. 

Wow!! We have learned a lot and I'm glad that you all stuck around to get all these cool facts with me. I hope you enjoyed the post!!!

Oh yeah, before I go I would love to wish everyone a.......

(Photo courtesy of: Jenny Craig)

No comments:

Post a Comment