The Origins of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a widely celebrated holiday in the U.S. taking place every year on the fourth Thursday of November. In fact, 62% of Americans celebrate Thanksgiving at home with their loved ones each year. But are we celebrating something that we don’t really know the full meaning behind? Thanksgiving is a time that most Americans can agree is spent being thankful, which is true. But the story of Thanksgiving involves much more than being thankful for all that we are given.

The story of Thanksgiving first begins in 1620, when a group of 102 religious separatists left their home in search of religious freedom. The pilgrims finally settled in Massachusetts Bay after 66 days on a ship named the Mayflower. From there, the pilgrims began to cultivate and establish the town of Plymouth. The first winter in America was brutal, and many pilgrims suffered from diseases such as scurvy. By March however, they were greeted by an English- speaking tribe of Indians known as the Abenakis. A member of one the native tribes, Squanto, taught the pilgrims how to use and respect the land. In November of 1621, the pilgrims had their first successful harvest and called for a celebration that included their native allies.

This celebration- now referred to as “Thanksgiving”- lasted for three days. Much of the menu of the first Thanksgiving is unknown, but historians rationalize that many of the sweet treats we enjoy at the table today- 400 years after the first Thanksgiving- were most likely not present in November of 1621. Most of the sugar necessary in making these sweets would have been in short supply after months on the Mayflower. Much of the meal, however, was made using native spices that local tribes had used for years before.

So the next time you are sitting around the dinner table with your loved ones enjoying turkey and stuffing, remember the first Thanksgiving, one of harvest and harmony.

-Roma L.

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