What is Thanksgiving and How Did It All Start?

Boxing Day SaleThanksgiving is an important American National Holiday. It is celebrated on different dates in the USA, Canada, some of the Caribbean Islands and Liberia. It was in the month of September 1620, that 102 passengers, who were religious separatists from various backgrounds, boarded the Mayflower ship to leave from Plymouth, England in search of a new home and a new life with a freedom to practice their faith. They were also lured by the idea of owning land and prospering in the new land. After a dangerous and stressful journey of 66 days, they landed at the tip of Cape Cod. From Cape Cod, it took the Mayflower one month to reach Massachusetts Bay, and this is where the people from England known today as pilgrims settled down and started a village called Plymouth.

The winter was brutal and hence the pilgrims stayed aboard the ship. During this time many suffered from outbreaks of contagious diseases, scurvy, etc. By spring only half of the original passengers and crew had survived. These remaining people moved ashore in March and were received with a warm welcome from an Abenaki Indian who could communicate with them in English. After several days, he returned with another Native American known as Squanto. Squanto who was a member of the Pawtuxet tribe was earlier kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold as a slave. He somehow escaped to London and returned to his homeland with an exploratory expedition.

Squanto helped the pilgrims learn corn cultivation, sap extraction from maple trees, taught them how to fish in the rivers, identify and keep away from poisonous plants, etc. He additionally helped the pilgrims forge an alliance with a neighbouring clan called the Wampanoag, which would continue for over 50 years and sadly stays one of the sole models of amicability between European pilgrims and Local Americans.

First Thanksgiving in the USIn November 1621, the pilgrims had a successful corn harvest, and to celebrate this occasion, Governor William Bradford organized a feast to which he invited a group of Native Americans that were allies of the fledgeling colony as well as the Wampanoag chief Massasoit to thank them for their help in guiding the pilgrims towards a successful harvest. This is today remembered as the first Thanksgiving although the pilgrims themselves did not use the term. The feast and celebrations lasted for three days.

Although today Turkey is the main food on the Thanksgiving menu, on the first Thanksgiving, it was a menu which consisted of fowl, lobster, seal, and swans along with corn. The Indians brought five deer as a contribution to the feast. Most of the food was cooked using Native Americans spices, as the pilgrim’s supply of spices and sugar had dwindled by then.

Thanksgiving CelebrationsThanksgiving was finally declared as a national holiday across the whole of the USA by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, and still today is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month of November every year.

Some important facts about Thanksgiving:

1. It is believed that at the first Thanksgiving only five women from the pilgrims were present as many women settlers did not survive the harsh first year.
2. The writer of the famous song “Mary had a little lamb,” Sarah Josepha Hale was the one who convinced President Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.
3. Each year, the life of one turkey is spared or pardoned by the president of the U.S and is saved from being eaten for Thanksgiving dinner.
4. Americans devour over 50 million turkeys on Thanksgiving Day.
5. Around 50% of Americans put stuffing inside the turkey.

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