Nov 22, 2018

Thanksgiving: Origins and Significance today

 

Thanksgiving is one of the most popular holidays in the United States and has been that way for the last few centuries. Though today Thanksgiving is known around the world for shopping, turkey and football, the origins of the festival date back to 1621.

 

The History of Thanksgiving

 

Around 1620, 102 Protestants who felt stifled in their home country, came to the New World in search of a new life where they could experience prosperity and religious freedom.

 

Their journey in the newly discovered land was long and arduous, with them taking approximately 66 days before reaching Massachusetts Bay.

 

A year later, the Pilgrims saw a successful corn harvest, which led Governor William Bradford to arrange a celebratory feast, with the Native Americans and the newcomers to the New World coming together as one. 

 

While there's no record of the food consumed in the feast, Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow stated that the Wampanoag guests arrived with five deer. It's believed that various dishes and meats were cooked using traditional Native American cooking techniques.

 

Thanksgiving has become controversial in recent years owing to the argument that it represents the early beginnings of the colonial conquest of the Native Americans. It’s argued that Thanksgiving represents cultural appropriation and exposes the guilt of imperialism. However, on the other hand, it’s well-documented that the first Thanksgiving was indeed a celebration of unity between the new immigrants and the Native Americans. This is probably why, after their second Thanksgiving celebration in 1623, it became an annual tradition in the New England territories. 

A century and a half later in 1789, George Washington himself declared it a National Day, telling the American people to celebrate and pray in gratitude for the American Revolution ending successfully. It was only in 1863 that Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a federal holiday.

Since then, the tradition has grown and evolved with the times, adopting unique cultural elements in the process and becoming the extravaganza we know it as today. At the core, however, Thanksgiving is about five things:

 


 

1. Thankfulness
Gratitude is an important part of Thanksgiving. The spirit of the holiday is about gratitude and sharing what one feels most grateful for.

2. Prayer
Thanksgiving was a Pilgrim’s festival, and God plays an important role in Thanksgiving through the centuries. While the world is becoming less religious as the years roll by, prayers are still a mainstay, particularly before the grand dinner. After all, Thanksgiving means giving thanks to God. However, Thanksgiving is a true-blue American celebration today, and transcends boundaries of religion.

3. Charity
Another important thing about the spirit of Thanksgiving is giving back. This is why there are always volunteer food services that feed the poor and underprivileged for free, around the 50 states in America on this day more than any other.

4. Holiday Shopping
On the other extreme, it wouldn’t be an American festival without shopping fun! Just a month before the Holiday season, the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) is the single biggest day of the year for shopping, as companies make as much as possible in holiday sales. Prepare for some insane deals!

5. Football
The first NFL Thanksgiving game took place in 1934 between the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears. Football has since become a vital part of the Thanksgiving family tradition, especially with the college and high school teams.



 

6. Food

The first Thanksgiving was all about the food, and that’s still the case today! This Thanksgiving, try out some of these unique side dishes to go with your feast.
Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole
French Onion Green Bean Casserole
Sweet Potato Casserole
Muffin Tin Potatoes Gratin

Cornbread Casserole

 

There's a reason why Thanksgiving is considered the biggest celebratory festival in the United States. It's a culturally and historically significant holiday and it unites people as Americans in a time where unity is most certainly needed! May the tradition keep going strong in the years and centuries to come. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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