History Of Thanksgiving
Jordan Stowe - Managing Editor
Savy McEwan - Staff Writer
Every year millions of Americans come together with family and friends and celebrate the day of thanks on November 23rd. Us Americans have a huge feast consisting of foods ranging from mashed potatoes and gravy to corn on the cob, with the main course almost always being a Turkey. In September 1620, the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.
Throughout the first winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure of diseases. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received a visit from an Abenaki Indian. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe.
In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Though no record exists of the historic banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a hunting mission in preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s. The meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations, and weirdly enough, lobster, seal, and swans were also on the pilgrims menu.
Here are a couple more unknown facts about thanksgiving:
Sarah Josepha Hale, the writer of the famous nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb” wrote letters for 17 years to the state, to make thanksgiving a legal holiday. Sarah convinced Abraham Lincoln to issue a decree to recognize the national holiday in 1863.
Also, in 1939, during the Great Depression, the president told the public that they should celebrate thanksgiving a week early, in hopes that it would spur the retail prices during that time, but the Americans did not respond well to the new declaration. Some protested on the streets while others took to name-calling, so the mayor of Atlantic city came up with a solution. They would simply have 2 meals. The first would be “Franksgiving” and the second, Thanksgiving as usual. After 2 years of bickering, congress finally set the fourth thursday of November as the legal holiday.
Parades have also become an integral part of the holiday in cities and towns across the United States. Presented by Macy’s department store since 1924, New York City’s Thanksgiving Day parade is the largest and most famous, attracting some 2 to 3 million spectators along its 2.5-mile route and drawing an enormous television audience. It typically features marching bands, performers, elaborate floats conveying various celebrities and giant balloons shaped like cartoon characters.
Beginning in the mid-20th century and perhaps even earlier, the president of the United States has “pardoned” one or two Thanksgiving turkeys each year, sparing the birds from slaughter and sending them to a farm for retirement. A number of U.S. governors also perform the annual turkey pardoning ritual.
On a less historical note, the way that TV dinners came to be was because of thanksgivings mounds of leftovers. People such as Garry Thomas and Clarence Birdseye claim the fame for the wonderful creation, but the only absolute we know is tha that swanson started this wonderful creation. The Idea was started after swanson was left with mounds of extra turkey, the load was so big, it weighed up to 260 whopping tons. After the company realized what they had gotten themselves into, they took advantage of the new technology, and created the beloved tv dinner. The plate included turkey (of course), cornbread dressing, peas, and sweet potatoes.
Speaking of food, some of America’s traditional side dishes such as sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce weren't introduced to our wonderful holiday until 50 years later when cranberry sauce was invented, and sweet potatoes made their way to America. Breaking wishbones to grant wishes wasn't originally an American tradition. The tradition was inherited from the British, who got it from the Romans, who adopted it from the Etruscans who believed that birds had oracle powers. When birds died they would keep the wishbone and stroke it as they made wishes, which is a little different from what some of us do today.
When thanksgiving friday was named, it was ironically named “black friday” to keep people away from shopping after thanksgiving, but as we are normal Americans, nothing can stop us from shopping, especially when huge discounts come into play.
Even though Thanksgiving has been changed since our great ancestors of America, we still come together with friends and family and enjoy one of our great country's holiday.