It’s safe to say that nearly every American knows the story of how the Thanksgiving holiday came to be. It’s a story of hardship being overcome by success that finally led to the first Thanksgiving feast where the Pilgrims gave thanks to the local natives and of course to God for the bountiful food that was finally available which enabled them to survive.
The Pilgrims were seeking freedom from the religious persecution they had suffered in England and courageously set sail for the new world. Packing all the belongings they could carry onto what would now be considered a tiny, unsafe and very fragile ship, they made the perilous journey and landed on the east coast of what is now America. This is history. We all know this from our lessons at school. But what many may have forgotten was that this was not the beginning of what is today a uniquely American holiday.
The first Thanksgiving that was celebrated in the autumn of 1621 was not observed in the years following. It became an official holiday in 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it to be so and it has been an American tradition ever since.
Today, Americans often sit down to sumptuous turkey dinners with all the ‘fixins’ and still give thanks to God for all that we have in our country. This is often followed by watching football games and taking part in other holiday activities, which for some could simply be an after-dinner nap while waiting for dessert and coffee. Historians still aren’t positive that turkey was part of the first Thanksgiving feast. However they do seem pretty sure that sumptuous main courses like wild duck, goose, venison and even clams and lobster were high at the top of the menu followed by fruits, such as plums, and boiled pumpkin. No pumpkin pie. But happily, turkeys today are plentiful and if cooked just right, delicious and now cooked by several different methods.
Though tradition still reigns on Thanksgiving Day, much has changed since that first feast in 1621. The 46 surviving Pilgrims were joined and helped by 91 American Indians and together they worked hard and in cooperation at making sure that from then on, food and shelter; two things that were certainly a must for survival in those days in such a harsh environment, would follow and endure well into the future.
Today, what often follows a relaxing Thanksgiving holiday spent with friends and family is frenzied shopping sprees and a head long rush into the Christmas Season and all the hustle and bustle that comes with it. And this is something that millions of Americans also look forward to.
Times change for sure, but the good thing about this very special holiday is that even though in this modern age nearly four centuries since the first Thanksgiving feast was enjoyed, where things are so much different with new customs and habits, most Americans still hold on to part of that tradition. It is what caused this Thanksgiving holiday to begin way back when the Mayflower first landed at Plymouth Rock. And that is an appreciation of family, good friends and neighbors helping neighbors and slowing down, even if it’s just for a day to give thanks for all that we have.