Thanksgiving traditions in America have gone a long way since their ritualistic origins in different parts of the world. Thanksgiving is a national holiday on various dates throughout the United States, Liberia, St. Lucia, and Grenada and St. Lucia, and Liberia. It started as a day of Thanksgiving specifically for the harvest and the previous year. In Germany and Japan, there are festivals with the same name. People worldwide celebrate Thanksgiving at the same time of year, with Canada’s Thanksgiving Day occurring on October 2 and America’s on November 4 (and around the same time in other countries). Thanksgiving has religious and cultural aspects, but it has also been observed as a secular holiday for decades.
This celebration has its roots in English customs that date back to the Protestant Reformation in North America. Prayers of thanks and special thanksgiving rites are customary in most religions after harvests and at other times. Even though New England’s harvest begins much before the contemporary Thanksgiving holiday’s late November date, it contains elements of a harvest festival.
During the reign of King Henry VIII, special religious rituals and the thanksgiving days were increasingly prominent in English culture.
Every Sunday and 95 Church festivals before 1536 obliged people to attend church and forgo their jobs. Accordingly, all Church festivals other than the weekly Lord’s Day were to be abolished, including the evangelical feasts of Christmas and Easter, notwithstanding the 1536 changes in the Anglican Church’s liturgical calendar (cf. Puritan Sabbatarianism).
Events that the Puritans perceived as divine intervention were to be replaced by “Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving.” Days of Fasting were required in the event of a catastrophe or divine judgment.
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How Did the Jamestown Colonists Begin the Thanksgiving Tradition?
When a supply ship arrived in 1610, the Jamestown colonists organized a prayer session to thank God for their return home. Berkley An Indian insurrection a few years later put a stop to any other Thanksgiving celebrations, in line with the charter that declared that the day of their arrival in Virginia should be marked each year as a day of Thanksgiving (Dabney). Nevertheless, British colonists performed several Thanksgiving ceremonies in America well before the Pilgrims’ feast in 1621.
After saying grace, the Pilgrims had a non-religious Thanksgiving dinner, apart from reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Instead, they appear to have spent the three days dining, playing games, and even imbibing in booze.
Another day of Thanksgiving was observed in Plymouth Plantation, Massachusetts, in 1623. Colonists engaged in fasting and praying for the arrival of rain while severe droughts ravaged their crops; the rains arrived a few days later. Captain Miles Standish came soon after with staples and the news that a Dutch supply ship was on its route. Due to this abundance, a day of Thanksgiving and prayer was organized on June 30. Our Thanksgiving Day may have its roots in this 1623 feast, which mixed religious and social celebrations.
For more than 150 years, Thanksgiving celebrations have been held locally. It was customary for these gatherings to coincide with harvest festivals in the late fall. However, a day of Thanksgiving was established in 1789 in honor of the American people’s hard-won freedoms, thanks to Elias Boudinot, a Massachusetts Congress member, who proposed the idea. President George Washington was notified of the decision by a Congressional Joint Committee. “A day of public gratitude and prayer” was declared on Thursday, November 26, 1789, by President George Washington.
At most, the following three presidents proclaimed two days of Thanksgiving, either through a joint resolution or an initiative. Thomas Jefferson was an exception, believing that requiring the American people to conduct a day of prayer and gratitude constituted a clash of religion and state. President James Madison issued the latest presidential proclamation declaring a day of Thanksgiving on April 13, 1815. President Abraham Lincoln did likewise in 1862.
Sarah Josepha Hale deserves most of the credit for establishing the Thanksgiving holiday as an annual observance. Women’s suffrage was discussed in early publications like Godey’s Lady’s Book, both of which Hale edited. She wrote letters to governors, senators, and presidents and published stories and recipes. Finally, she triumphed after 36 years of battling. On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln declared that November 26, the fourth Thursday of November, would be a national Thanksgiving Day, which would be commemorated every year.
It has only been done twice by a president. President Franklin D. Roosevelt designated the third Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day in 1939 and 1940 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide extra selling days before Christmas to retailers suffering from the Great Depression. Despite this, he ran into opposition from the general public, partly because of the inconvenience this would bring for Thanksgiving Day activities like football games and parades.
There are many households and churches open today because of the Thanksgiving holiday. We owe our ability to commemorate a day of thankfulness to indigenous peoples and immigrants.
The Beginning of Thanksgiving Traditions in America
On Thursday, November 24, 2022, Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving Day, a federal holiday in the United States. One of the first Thanksgiving feasts in the colonies was celebrated in 1621 by Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag tribe members. Individual states and colonies have observed Thanksgiving for over two hundred years now. However, Abraham Lincoln didn’t declare a national Thanksgiving Day until 1863, in the thick of the Civil War.
A small English ship dubbed the Mayflower, containing 102 passengers, set sail for the “New World” in September of 1620, bringing a mix of religious separatists and others drawn by the promise of affluence and land ownership. In the “New World.” After a 66-day journey across the Atlantic, they anchored at Cape Cod, far from their original target of the Hudson River’s mouth. As they are now called, the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth a month after the Mayflower sailed across Massachusetts Bay.
Most colonists stayed on the ship during the first harsh winter, where they were exposed to the elements, scurvy, and outbreaks of a dangerous illness.
With him was another Native American person, Squanto, who was captured initially before being handed over to a spit. He was destined to become an enslaved person for life until he could head to London. Then, finally, he could return to the Pawtuxet tribe on an exploration journey.
When the Pilgrims arrived in the New World, they suffered from starvation and disease, and Squanto taught them how to grow maize, harvest maple sap, catch fish, and avoid dangerous plants. For the first time in colonial history, European settlers and Native Americans could coexist peacefully for more than fifty years thanks to the aid of the Wampanoag, a local tribe.
Governor William Bradford hosted a feast in honor of the Pilgrims’ first successful corn harvest in November 1621. He invited several of the colony’s Native American friends, notably Wampanoag leader Massasoit.
Pilgrims may not have used the title “first Thanksgiving” at the time, but the three-day event is now established as a substantial event in American history. Edward Winslow, a Pilgrim chronicler, provided most of the information regarding the first Thanksgiving that we know about today.
They believe that many of these foods were cooked with traditional Native American ingredients and cooking methods. But unfortunately, there were no pies, cakes, or other desserts at this lunch.
In 1623, the Pilgrims celebrated their second Thanksgiving to honor the end of a protracted drought that had imperiled the year’s crop and forced Governor Bradford to call for holy fasting. Other New England villages adopted the tradition of fasting and offering gratitude yearly or irregularly.
A day of Thanksgiving was set by the Continental Congress every year during the American Revolution, and in 1789, Washington issued the first national Thanksgiving proclamation, in which he urged citizens to show their gratitude for the successful conclusion of the country’s war of independence and ratification of the United States Constitution. During their terms in office, John Adams and James Madison both instituted official days of Thanksgiving.
New York was the first to declare an annual Thanksgiving holiday in 1817 formally; nonetheless, each state observed it on a different day. The American South was primarily unaware of this practice until the mid-1900s.
American Practices During Thanksgiving
A lavish dinner is a centerpiece of Thanksgiving celebrations in many American homes, which have lost much of the holiday’s religious importance. Although turkey has become synonymous with Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims may not have served it during the first Thanksgiving dinner in 1621.
According to the National Turkey Federation, approximately 90% of Americans consume turkey for Thanksgiving, whether roasted, baked, or deep-fried. There’s also stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, among other things. In addition, community food drives and free meals for those in need are traditional Thanksgiving Day activities.
Parades have become a vital component of the event in cities and towns around the United States. For example, since 1924, Macy’s department store has presented New York City’s Thanksgiving Day parade, which attracts between 2 and 3 million people along its 2.5-mile course and immense television viewership. Large-scale balloon sculptures in the style of cartoon characters and ornate floats depicting various personalities are commonplace.
One or two Thanksgiving turkeys have been spared from slaughter and sent to a farm for departure by the president of the United States since the mid-20th century. In addition, several governors in the United States pardon turkeys each year.
Some historians believe the first Thanksgiving in the United States did not genuinely occur in Plymouth in 1620. Historians, on the other hand, have documented various thanksgiving rites among European settlers in North America before the Pilgrims.
St. Augustine’s Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilé hosted a luncheon for his Timucua hosts in 1565 after celebrating mass to honor God for the safe arrival of his company.
Many people, including Native Americans, are outraged by how the tale of Thanksgiving is told to the American public, particularly students. While the conventional narrative portrays ties between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag as idyllic, in their opinion, it obscures the long and brutal history of warfare between the Native Americans and white settlers that resulted in the lives of thousands.
It’s common knowledge that the Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving Feast of 1621 was the first of its type in North America, but few people are conscious that it wasn’t the first one. Native Americans used dance and ceremonies like the Green Corn Dance of the Cherokee to ensure a successful harvest before Europeans even set foot on the continent of America.
May 27, 1578, was the date of the earliest documented European Thanksgiving ceremony in North America, but it is possible that Spaniards in La Florida performed earlier Church-type services. According to some historians, the Popham Colony in Maine may have had a Thanksgiving ceremony as early as 1607.