The History Behind Thanksgiving

ANDY, A SECOND YEAR M.PHIL HISTORY STUDENT, TELLS US ABOUT THE AMERICAN TRADITION OF THANKSGIVING…

Andy here, wishing you all a warm Autumn greeting.

Like some of you this time of year is not just a prep for Christmas and Black Friday, which is really around the corner, but as a time to gather the family for the tradition in the States that we know as “Thanksgiving.”

Some of you, being American like myself, have probably noticed the absence of the holiday here. I personally have taken a break from it, mainly due to no time and not having Thanksgiving Thursday off, (The last Thursday of November). Nonetheless, it is an important part of our heritage that we still share with others far and wide. That being said, this holiday tradition, of two hundred years or so can be shared with whomever we like.

The holiday was intended to celebrate, give thanks and blessings for a good yearly harvest. Though it seems highly “Americanised”, it has roots in many other nations’ histories including the UK, dating back to the Protestant Reformation and of course various harvest festivals of New England. In the United States the holiday is primarily based on harvest festivals and events in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. Additionally, from similar events from 1612 stemming from the colony of Virginia. All the immigrating pilgrims and puritans from England in the 1620s and 1630s, carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving. As history states this holiday is based off a series of harvest events, contraire to the popular belief of just one.

In the United States, traditional harvest festivals were not held regularly until the 1660s. Proclamations for Thanksgiving did not take off until after the American Revolution in 1682 by both church and state leaders. It was not until George Washington, our first President on the 26 November 1789, that Thanksgiving became and was proclaimed “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and single favors of Almighty God.”

It was not until President Franklin D. Roosevelt on 26th of December in 1941 signed a joint resolution of Congress that the original national Thanksgiving Day changed from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday. He had tried two years early to make it a holiday in order to boost the economy.

Today, Thanksgiving is a day to show and give thanks for ‘have and have nots’, and gifts, quite in line with the pending Christmas festivities. To some families back home, they use it as a weekend, Thursday through to the Sunday; to start to prepare for the festivities of Christmas. The whole holiday is framed by a meal with a roasted turkey garnished with cranberry sauce, yams, pumpkin pie and whatever other tasty foods traditionally associated to the first meal the of the pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower to the Massachusetts shores in 1621.

 

The tradition has stuck and with that I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

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