Thanksgiving is a very special day in America celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday of November. It has a very interesting history. The origin of Thanksgiving Day comes from the 16th century when the first thanksgiving dinner is said to have taken place.
Origin of the celebration of Thanksgiving
A group of about 102 pilgrims, crossed the Atlantic in the year 1620 in Mayflower (a 17th Century sailing vessel). They travelled kept in the cargo space of the sailing vessel for nearly two months suffering extreme conditions. No one was allowed to go on the deck due to terrible storms. The pilgrims comforted themselves by singing sacred Psalms.
They arrived to Plymouth rock on December 11th 1620, after a sea journey of 66 days. Though the original destination was somewhere in the northern part of Virginia, they could not reach the place owing to winds blowing them off course. Nearly 46 pilgrims died due to extreme cold in winter. However, in the following spring, Squanto, a native Indian taught the pilgrims to survive by growing food.
It is said that Pilgrims learnt to grow corn, beans and pumpkins from the Indians, which helped all of them survive. In the autumn of 1621, they held a big celebration were Indians were invited. The grand feast was organized to thank god for his favours. This communal dinner is popularly known as “The first thanksgiving feast”. There is however, no evidence to prove if the dinner actually took place.
According to the first hand account written by the leader of the colony, the food included, ducks, geese, venison, fish, berries, etc. It is not sure if turkey was eaten in the first feast. Pumpkin pie, a modern staple adorning every dinner table, is unlikely to have been a part of the first thanksgiving feast. Pilgrims however, did have boiled pumpkin. Diminishing supply of flour led to the absence of any kind of bread.
The feast continued for three days and was eaten outside due to lack of space. It was not repeated till 1623, which again witnessed a severe drought. In 1676 governor Bradford proclaimed another day of thanksgiving. October of 1777 witnessed a time when all the 13 colonies joined in a communal celebration. It also marked the victory over the British.
After a number of events and changes, in 1863 President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November to become the Thanksgiving Day. George Washington, the first president of the United States, proclaimed the first national holiday of Thanksgiving Day in 1789 and move it to the fourth Thursday of November.
Thanksgiving in our days
Nowadays Thanksgiving Day is a traditional day to get a special meal with the family and friends. The meal often includes a turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, pumpkin pie, and vegetables. It is a time to give thanks for what they have.
Thanksgiving Day parades are held in some cities and towns on or around Thanksgiving Day. Some parades or festivities also mark the opening of the Christmas shopping season. Some people have a four-day weekend (because most government offices, businesses, schools and other organizations are closed) becoming a popular time for trips and to visit family and friends.