Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day is coming! 

In the US, it's traditionally a holiday to give thanks for the food collected at the end of the harvest season. It's a day for families and friends to get together and give thanks to them for their love and support. This holiday commemorates the feast held by the Pilgrim colonists and Wampanoag Indians at Plymouth in 1621. 
Thanksgiving Day in the United States is a holiday on the fourth Thursday of November. This year it's celebrated on November 22th.

Thanksgiving is America's preeminent day. It is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday in the month of November. It has a very interesting history. Its origin can be traced back to the 16th century when the first Thanksgiving dinner is said to have taken place.

Origin of Thanksgiving Day

Journey of Pilgrims

The legendary pilgrims crossed the Atlantic in the year 1620 in Mayflower-A 17th Century sailing vessel. About 102 people traveled for nearly two months with extreme difficulty. This was so because they were kept in the cargo space of the sailing vessel. No one was allowed to go on the deck due to terrible storms. The pilgrims comforted themselves by singing Psalms  (sacred songs).

Arrival in Plymouth

The pilgrims reached 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. However, in the spring of 1621, Squanto, a native Indian, taught the pilgrims to survive by growing food.

Day of Fasting and Prayer

In the summer of 1621, owing to severe drought, pilgrims called for a day of fasting and prayer to please God and ask for a bountiful harvest in the coming season. God answered their prayers and it rained at the end of the day. It saved the corn crops.

First Thanksgiving Feast

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 grand celebration where 90 people were invited including Indians. The feast was organized to thank god for his favors. This communal dinner is popularly known as “The first Thanksgiving feast”. However, there is no evidence to prove if the dinner actually took place. 

While some historians believe pilgrims were quite religious so, their Thanksgiving would have included a day of fasting and praying, others say that the Thanksgiving dinner did take place.

Turkey and First Thanksgiving Feast

  Thanksgiving Day: “First Thanksgiving, The,” reproduction of an oil painting by Ferris

 There is no evidence to prove if the customary turkey was a part of the initial feast. According to the firsthand account written by the leader of the colony, the food included, ducks, geese, venison, fish, berries, etc. 

Pumpkin and Thanksgiving Feast

Pumpkin pie, a modern staple adorning every dinner table, is unlikely to have been a part of the first Thanksgiving feast. However, pilgrims did have boiled pumpkin. Diminishing supply of flour led to the absence of any kind of bread. 

The feast continued for three days and all the food was eaten outside due to lack of space. It was not repeated until 1623, which again witnessed a severe drought. Governor Bradford proclaimed another day of Thanksgiving in the year 1676. 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, President Lincoln proclaimed last Thursday in November of Thanksgiving in the year 1863. This was due to the continuous efforts of Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor. She wrote a number of articles for the cause. 

On December 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday. Two years earlier, Franklin had used a presidential proclamation to try to achieve this change, reasoning that earlier celebration of the holiday would give the country an economic boost.

1 comment:

Patricia Bou said...

Thank you, Ainhoa. Very interesting!
Any idea how to cook a thanksgiving turkey?