Meta: Explore the origins of Thanksgiving in America.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that is seemingly all-American, from football to turkey and the realization that Christmas is only around the corner; Thanksgiving is truly a holiday to remember. However, in the era of commercialization one may wonder if we have forgotten the true meaning of the holiday and instead got caught up in whether we should go away for the holiday or save all our leave for the Christmas break? Well, today we will be unpacking the origins of Thanksgiving in America.
Origins of Thanksgiving
The roots of Thanksgiving in the US date back to the 1600’s when the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians joined together to share a feast during the time of the harvest. For around two centuries, Thanksgiving feasts were held throughout communities and colonies at various points during the harvest season; however during the American Civil War in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln made the decision that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on a single day in November
Yet, for those of you who may imagine that the very first Thanksgiving celebration right back in 1621, was anything like that, which features in your home or in the movies, think again. There would have been no desserts as by that time the sugar reserves of the Pilgrims – what the colonists from Plymouth came to be known as – had dwindled or completely ran out. The next way the first Thanksgiving meal differs to a modern one, is that the original feast lasted for three days straight.
Furthermore, the meal would most likely have been prepared according to traditional Native American cooking methods and would have made use of Native American flavorings and spices, as this was in short supply in the colony and the colonialists had not yet setup ovens or other such luxuries. In fact, the bird on the table may not have even been a turkey, while the men of the colony most certainly did venture on a ‘fowling’ quest, they could just have easily caught other wild birds such as geese, swan or duck as they could have snagged a wild turkey for the dinner table.
In fact, if anything they would most likely have featured a whole lot more aquatic life on their plates, even if it is not a common feature on most Thanksgiving menus today. Mussels would most likely have taken center stage, due to both their abundance within the New England region of the USand how easy it was to harvest them, but other possibilities could have included lobsters and clams.
Did you know that after Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to be a national holiday, it was celebrated on the last Thursday in November for each year; this may still be here but President F. D. Roosevelt chose to move it up by a week in 1939 to fight the Great Depression with a boost in economic activity? Yet he was compelled to return it to its rightful date in 1941 due to public sentiment.
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