DAA Daily

History of Thanksgiving

By: Mia Stevens, Daily Digest Editor, The Pawprint DAA

It is well known that Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated with lots of traditional food, family and gatherings plus watching football games. The modern version of Thanksgiving is spent on the last Thursday of November where Americans gather with their family and friends eating stuffing, turkey, mashed potatoes, and all things considered “traditional Thanksgiving food”. Most Americans also watch the annual Thanksgiving NFL football game, or Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. However, how was this holiday celebrated before it evolved to what it is today?

Most Americans generally believe that Thanksgiving is rooted from a harvest feast, celebrated in 1621 which was shared between the English colonists of Plymouth (pilgrims) and the Wampanoag people. After the English colonists of Plymouth, also known as the Mayflower pilgrims, arrived in Massachusetts, they sat down for a 3-day feast that unexpectedly, the Wampanoag people joined. It is believed the Wampanoag people heard the pilgrims firing guns which led them to suspicion of war. So, King Massasoit sent 90 Wampanoag people to investigate. The arrival of the Wampanoag people was unnerving to the 50 or so colonists. However, in spite of the unfamiliarity with each other, the two groups socialized over the next few days without incident, as the Wampanoag people contributed to their feasts and they feasted for days. This helped seal a treaty between the two groups that lasted until King Philip’s War (1675-76).

At first, Thanksgiving was seen to be a controversial holiday as some citizens objected to the national government’s involvement in a religious holiday. New England customs were slow to catch on in the South, and some people objected to partisan speeches and parades being held on this day. Eventually the day was finalized as a national holiday on October 3, 1863, during the American Civil War, President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26. Every president following that declared it a national holiday, and the date chosen, with the exception of a few, was officially on the final Thursday in November.

The holiday has continued to be an American annual tradition and celebration since then and has evolved. Thanksgiving is no longer considered to be a formally religious holiday but instead, it’s celebrated by all Americans around the world. The holiday still stands as a day of unity, time to give thanks and a day to reflect on what we’re grateful for. However the holiday is now represented by different traditional foods and brand new traditions like parades and football games. Although it has evolved since the 1600s, Thanksgiving is always a unifying holiday meant to bring together loved ones and bring attention to our blessings.

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