The History of Thanksgiving

The Reason for the Celebration

Nathaniel Caceres
Staff Writer
January 13, 2021 9:50 PM
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Opinion
A man carves the turkey for his family to partake of while they give thanks for the year that has just passed (Claudia Schwarz/Unsplash)
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Note: This story was originally produced over a month ago. Information, dates, predictions, and other details may be outdated.

Thanksgiving is a special holiday for many, taking place this year on November 26th. It is the day when we express our gratitude for others as well as celebrate everything that we are grateful to have in our lives. It is many people’s favorite holiday and for a good reason. It is usually celebrated with large family gatherings and parties, and there is always delicious turkey (among other food) to eat. It is all around an enjoyable time for everyone. Now why do we celebrate this holiday every year? Why does it exist and what does the holiday represent?

This family celebrates Thanksgiving, a legacy of the celebration of the thanks done by early colonists (krakenimages/Unsplash)

The story starts with a little ship called the Mayflower that had set sail from Plymouth, England in 1620. Aboard the ship were 102 passengers, all who were looking for a nice and free space to practice their religion. They were lured into the New World by the idea of religious freedom, which at the time showed lots of promise to the entire world. The journey to the New World lasted 66 days (about 2 months) and was extremely dangerous for everyone involved. When they touched land, they found that they were far north from their intended destination of Virginia. Instead, they arrived at Cape Cod, Massachusetts. After arriving, they all agreed to sign what would become known as the Mayflower Compact, which was an agreement for all the pilgrims to work together to survive. After this, the pilgrims began work on their new colony, using the ship that they built as their main base before slowly expanding and creating a village. They would establish their first fort on a hill that would later become known as Burial Hill.

During the pilgrims’ first winter, more than half of them lost their lives due to the poor housing and lack of food. They were in a very horrible situation and things did not seem like they were going to get better for the pilgrims. In March 1621 an Abenaki Native American approached them and started speaking to them in English, which surprised the pilgrims. After their meeting, they would encounter him again a few days later. With him he brought another member of his tribe named Squanto. He was a member of the Pawtuxet tribe, and had earlier been kidnapped by an English sea captain. After he was captured, he was sold into slavery. Later, he would eventually escape to London, and slowly make his way back to his people. Throughout his journey, he gained and picked up a lot of different knowledge and experience. He used this knowledge to help the suffering pilgrims flourish. He taught them all how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers, avoid poisonous plants, and how to better hunt down animals for food. He also helped the pilgrims form a good relationship with a neighboring tribe, the Wampanoags. This was huge and marked the turning point for the people.

By the time November rolled around, things had changed quite drastically for the settlers. Their first corn harvest was done, and had been proven to be a huge success for everybody, a sign of better things to come. The governor at the time, William Bradford, had decided to celebrate the occasion with a tremendous feast, which would serve everyone. Many people were invited, including a group of neighboring native Americans, who were allies of the pilgrims, as well as the chief of the Wampanoag tribe. This gigantic feast would be known as the first Thanksgiving, and would last a total of three days. It was a wonderful festival, and it created the tradition that we still follow to this day. An interesting fact about the first festival is that many of the foods that we usually associate with thanksgiving, such as pumpkin pie, were not present. Most of the food was made from spices and other hunted animals. Other food, such as potatoes, fish, fruits and vegetables were also present.

Thanksgiving is a very important holiday that is loved by many people. It is the day when we celebrate all of those we love and appreciate in our lives. However, it is important for us to know where the tradition began, and how it started, in order to better appreciate the holiday.

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