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Thanks giving day

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Thanks giving day

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day History

Though the history of a “thanksgiving day” can be traced back to 1789 when George Washington declared Thursday, November 26th as a day when “we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks . . .” there was no national agreement on a day for the event. Prior to that, from 1777 to 1783, Thanksgiving Day, by Congressional mandate, was celebrated in December.

After a five-year break with no celebration, Washington’s pproclamation revived the holiday and moved it to November. Other Presidents declared various days of Thanksgiving and one, James Madison, actually declared two in the year 1815; however, none of these occasions were in the fall of the year.

A Day of National Thanksgiving

The idea of a national day of Thanksgiving did not occur again until 1863. President Lincoln, following decisive wins by the Union armies at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in the summer of that year, issued a declaration making the ffourth Thursday in November, a National Day of Thanksgiving. Even at that late date, the holiday was not universally accepted, particularly in the South, where it was viewed as another Yankee event that further eroded their way of life. By tthe late nineteenth century, however, the New England harvest festival, which evolved into Thanksgiving Day, was celebrated nationwide.

Pilgrims? What Pilgrims?

As mentioned earlier, one of the greatest myths of Thanksgiving concerns the role of the Pilgrims. The colonists who established the Plymouth Colony did not refer to themselves as Pilgrims. Their self-descriptive title was “Separatists,” denoting their theological break with the Church of England. The actual use of the word “pilgrim” appears to been a use of literary license by latter day historians who felt the need to romanticize the event.

Though commonly viewed as Thanksgiving Day symbols, the association of Pilgrims and Native Americans with the holiday did not occur until the 1800s. As far as can be ascertained, the actual ddescription of the 1621 feast was lost until a group of memoirs, including a description by Edward Winslow, one of the Plymouth Colony’s leaders, was rediscovered sometime in the 1820s.

Winslow’s description of the celebration, entitled Mourts Relation (1622), gives an idea of what happened at that meal:

“Many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest, their greatest King Massasoil, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted . . . ”

It wasn’t until 11841 that writer Alexander Young linked that harvest celebration with the American Thanksgiving.

In the early 1900s, when illustrations of those early settlers and their Native American neighbors became commonplace, these images became forever intertwined as icons for Thanksgiving. Even today it is as unthinkable to celebrate Thanksgiving Day without thoughts of Pilgrims as it is to have Thanksgiving Dinner without turkey!

Thanksgiving Day Traditions

In the United States, aside from the Thanksgiving meal, we have come to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with parades, football, and the start of the Christmas shopping season.


Thanksgiving Day Parades, though not specifically documented, probably got their start when President Lincoln proclaimed an official day of Thanksgiving. Given the Union achievements of the summer of 1863, it would have been logical that any official event declared by the President would have been accompanied by a show of military strength and discipline such as a full-dress parade. Elaborate floats, musical shows and entertainment celebrities have replaced the parades of armed and uniformed men marching in cadence or to a military band, but the desired effect, to lift the spirits of the spectators, remains the goal.

Heralding the Christmas Rush

The day after Thanksgiving, often an additional day off has become ““Black Friday” the day when the Christmas shopping frenzy first starts. Like football, this has become a cultural symbol of the holiday and the season.


The advent of Thanksgiving Day football is purely a twentieth century invention. For years, the principal game was a tradition between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers. Yet, as this modern day ritual became more and more popular, more games were added with more teams.

Thanksgiving Fare

Let’s Talk Turkey

Picture the traditional Thanksgiving dinner: a festive table, a loving family, glowing candles and the finest china used only on special occasions. And the centerpiece of the festive meal: the turkey, golden brown, with stuffing and gravy on the side, awaiting the carving knife and whetting the appetites of all those present. This scene, however, is not from history, but it emerges from a desire to remake history into our own vision.

No Thanksgiving Turkey?

Wild turkeys, as they would have been encountered in New England nearly four centuries ago certainly did not resemble the overstuffed fowl, cultivated for our dinner table, that we have come to recognize, even by silhouette. Tough, resourceful, able to fly and hard to catch, turkeys were not the first choice of either NNative Americans or early colonial hunters. This creature was so tenacious that none other than Benjamin Franklin suggested it be revered as our national symbol. Of course, the Bald Eagle ultimately won the honor by a feather.

So if turkey was not the main course at the first harvest festival, which we have adopted through time, as the model for Thanksgivin

Then What’s for Thanksgiving Dinner?

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