The History and Traditions of Thanksgiving

Ashley Torres, Business Manager

November is here and Thanksgiving is right around the corner! But not many people know actual Thanksgiving history or barely remember its origins from grade school.

The first Thanksgiving was actually a three day event. In early autumn of 1621, Pilgrims and Native Americans, the Wampanoag, came together to feast at Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts. This event took place somewhere between September 21 to November 11 back then.

Being grateful for their plentiful harvest, the Pilgrims celebrated thanksgiving to thank God for the big feast.

The “New” Thanksgiving is a mix tradition between the Pilgrims from New England, who used it as a celebration of a great harvest and the later Puritans, who used it as prayer. The Wampanoag have always given thanks to their gods daily before this feast.

Edward Winslow, who was at the event, wrote letters to describe an event that had food that would last for a week.

This feast wasn’t like the Thanksgiving menu that most think of today. The food didn’t consist of turkey, stuffing and ham. It most likely consisted of what they had, like shellfish, squash, porridge, flint corn, venison and so on.

Not many people actually know when it became a national holiday either.  A national Thanksgiving feast was announced by first President George Washington, saying that it was on November 26, 1786. However, it was actually Abraham Lincoln in 1863 who proclaimed it as a federal holiday.

Fun fact, apparently Thanksgiving was so important to George Washington, that he had his troops stop in the freezing cold to observe the national feast.

Nowadays, a Thanksgiving feast is more a family fun holiday and less a celebration of a bountiful harvest–many of us don’t know where our food comes from, let alone live on an actual farm. Even though saying prayers is still common, most American families enjoy eating what seems to be never ending meal and relaxing with family watching or playing football.