Thanksgiving is a federal holiday in the United States. It is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November every year. People often call it American Thanksgiving to distinguish it from the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday.
The festival originated as a day of thanksgiving. The main theme of the holiday revolves around thanking each other. A thanksgiving dinner becomes the centerpiece of Thanksgiving celebrations.
The thanksgiving dinner consists of dishes and foods common in America such as turkey, stuffing, potatoes, corn, squash, cranberries, green beans, and pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving customs also include charitable works such as offering Thanksgiving dinner for the poor, watching parades, attending religious services, and watching football games.
In American culture, Thanksgiving is also considered a sign of the beginning of the winter holiday season including Christmas and the New Year. There are many customs and origin stories available to support the history of thanksgiving.
The colonists of Virginia and New England celebrate days of fasting as thanksgiving. This way, they thank God for their blessings upon us such as ship landings, harvests, military victories, or the end of the drought. Church services observe these things with the help of feasts and communal gatherings.
The History Of the First Thanksgiving
In the US, Thanksgiving is more like a time for family and food. What Americans know about the tradition of Thanksgiving is the story of Pilgrims who helped to establish Plymouth Colony in 1620 which is now Massachusetts. The story says American Indian locals were friendly and they swooped in to teach the colonists’ survival lessons in the New World.
It was the time everyone got together to celebrate with a feast in 1621. Thus, Thanksgiving 2021 was the 400th anniversary of the ‘first’ American Thanksgiving.
In reality, Thanksgiving feasts are earlier than the Plymouth event. Also, the peace celebrated with the day is questionable. The story behind Thanksgiving holiday is so dark that some people rethink the way of celebration.
The Plymouth Thanksgiving of 1621 wasn’t the first
Decades before the Plymouth Thanksgiving, Spanish settlers and the Seloy tribe broke bread in Florida with garbanzo beans and salted pork in 1565. The occasion was to observe the religion in past centuries.
Many people point out the year 1637 as the true origin of Thanksgiving. The governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony John Winthrop celebrated colonial soldiers who slaughtered hundreds of Pequot men, women, and children. However, people still follow the popular telling of the initial harvest festival story.
Massasoit, the Wampanoag paramount chief allied with the English settlers to fight newcomers against the French and local tribes. However, the alliance became edgy over time as thousands of English colonists moved to Plymouth taking land, authorities, and control of Wampanoag life.
It is believed that the early European settlers brought an unknown disease with them. Later, Massasoit’s son, Metacomet inherited leadership, and relations frayed. It leads to the war which was devastating and bloody.
In the end, Metacomet was beheaded and dismembered. The colonists pierced his head on a spike to display for the next 25 years. It was however the beginning of the brutal conflicts between Native Americans and colonists in New York, Virginia, and New England.
The holiday’s dark past has some people rethinking Thanksgiving
Racial justice in the US shows some people thinking to reevaluate the thanksgiving celebration. The Native Americans rethought the holiday that marginalized the US’s cruelty and violence against Native Americans. They even suggested renaming the Thanksgiving to Takesgiving or Takesgiving Massacre.
New York Post claimed that the United Americans Indians of New England publicly mourn Thanksgiving for decades. In 1970, an Aquinnah Wampanoag activist Frank James established the National Day of Mourning.
On this day, Native Americans gather in Plymouth, Massachusetts for the day of remembrance. People deliver speeches before marching through the Plymouth Historic District.
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The Modern History Of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally since 1789, however, it has been discarded multiple times. In 1789, Thanksgiving was considered a national festival after a request by Congress and proclamation by President George Washington. Later, President Thomas Jefferson chose not to consider thanksgiving a holiday.
President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday again in 1863. He declared Thanksgiving for the last Thursday in November. In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant made Thanksgiving a yearly appointed federal holiday in Washington D. C.
In 1885, Congress made Thanksgiving a paid holiday throughout the United States. President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the date one week earlier. From 1942 onwards, Thanksgiving got a permanent observation date which is the fourth Thursday in November.
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