Thanksgiving, a holiday deeply rooted in American history
People all over the world like holidays. So do people in America. Though American nation is so young and consists of so many ethnic communities, traditions and customs play a great part in a nation.
Technically there are no “national” holidays but most of them are celebrated nationally. The states observe federal public holidays. These are Thanksgiving, Independence Day, Christmas, New Year’s Day and some others. On these days schools, banks and all offices are closed.
By the way when a holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday it is usually observed on the following Monday or preceding Friday.
But the most American of all the holidays is Thanksgiving.
It is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. This holiday commemorates the first hard year the Pilgrims lived in the New World. And they’ve got a very good reason to celebrate this holiday because when the English pilgrims first came to the New World they had a very hard winter and it was questionable if most of them would survive.
Some Facts about Thanksgiving History and Traditions
When the Pilgrims began planting seeds they had to struggle with the rocky soil and bitter climate. Finally in the fall the fields produced a yield beyond expectation. They couldn’t have done it on their own.
Thanksgiving also includes the Native American Indians who helped the Pilgrims and showed them how to use fish heads as fertilizers.
So the Pilgrims had to overcome difficulties they met on their way. How can we characterize them? They were: courageous; brave; strong; naïve because they believed they could prosper in the unknown land; they were religious fanatics, they wanted to worship their God; they were superstitious; they were decisive; they were bigoted; they were superheroes, they stood that hard winter; they were friendly to Indians and owing to them a lot of European people started to settle in America.
Pilgrims have become so surrounded with legend that we tend to forget that they were real people. They courageously made the famous 1620 voyage and founded the first New England colony, but they were still ordinary people, not superheroes. They were English people who sought to escape the religious controversies and economic problems of their time by emigrating to America.
What clothes were typical of that time?
The clothing brought by the Plymouth colonists was typical of that worn by all English yeomen in the early XVII century. It was fashioned from wool and linen cloth, with some leather.
There was a much wider range of colors that exits in the modern image including reds, yellows, purples and greens as well as black and grey. Some of these colors had social significance – black was indicative of solid respectability; blue was frequently worn by children and servants and reddish-brown was a country-man’s color. Women wore long petticoats, skirts, long aprons, white blouses and waistcoats. On their head they were wearing a white cap which was called biggin or coif. Women were wearing shoes without heels with bright buckles.
The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621.
The “Mayflower” passengers participated in the Harvest Festival. Only half of the number which left England in 1620 lived through the first winter and many individuals were the only survivors in their families. There were 140 people at the three-day celebration, 90 Indians and 50 British. There were only four adult women who survived that first winter. They probably oversaw the cooking and preparations with the help of the children and servants.
The feast included cod, sea bass, wild fowl (such as ducks, geese, turkey and swans), corn meal and five deer brought by Indians.
Meat, fish and bread were the most important elements of the English diet at that time, although fruit and herbs were also eaten. The meat was roasted or boiled in traditional English fashion and fish boiled or grilled in the Indian manner. The pilgrims had a number of native and English fruits and herbs. Native plants: walnuts, chestnuts, grapes, gooseberries, raspberries, wild cherries, ground nuts, wild strawberries, beans, pumpkins, currents, wild onions. English plants: carrots, turnips, onions, cabbages, melons, radishes, beets.
Thanksgiving became a federal holiday when Lincoln was President. He issued a Proclamation in 1863 declaring Thanksgiving a federal holiday.
Today it is a very much family holiday celebrated with big dinners and happy reunion. It is a time for families to get together for what is often called a long weekend. Schools and offices are closed, relatives from other cities, students who have been away at school travel long distances to spend a holiday at home. The traditional food is Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie.
Traditions define a holiday and make it special. In any generation, they form a link with the past and comprise a heritage for future generations, valued by the individuals as a way to participate in something that endures beyond a single lifetime.Thanksgiving gives an opportunity to feel this continuous contact of generations.
The tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving Day is deeply rooted in American history.
Thanksgiving is a truly American holiday. Its traditions began in the New World with the feast shared by the Pilgrims and Native Americans. All its food is American, from Tom Turkey to Cape Cod cranberries. And its spirit is all American, too – football games, parades, and family fun!
How did this special holiday begin?
In 1620, a ship called the Mayflower brought 102 English settlers to America. Some of these settlers were Pilgrims, who came to the New World to practice their religious beliefs in freedom. Others came for adventure or a new start in life.
The Pilgrim settlers at Plymouth, Massachusetts, barely survived their first winter in the New World. But with the help of the Native Americans who lived in the area, they reaped a bountiful corn crop the next autumn.
The Pilgrims decided to have a three-day celebration feast to give thanks for a good harvest. Thus began the first Thanksgiving. The settlers’ Native Americans friends came to share the feast. Long tables set outside were piled with food. Everyone danced, sang, and ate.
Throughout American history, people have found reasons to give thanks for peace and prosperity. Over the years, they have remembered the first Thanksgiving: the Pilgrims, the Native Americans, the Mayflower, and a delicious feast.
Some Facts About the Pilgrims
- The word pilgrim means “one who journeys to a foreign land”. The pilgrims who came on the Mayflower were among the first European settlers in America. But millions of immigrants followed them to this country in later years.
- The Pilgrims settled at Plymouth Plantation along Cape Cod Bay in what is now Massachusetts.
- Two children were born aboard the Mayflower. They were Oceanus Hopkins and Peregrine (meaning “pilgrim”) White.
- During the first hard winter and spring at Plymouth, half the original settlers died.
- The Pilgrims did not always dress in drab colors as is commonly believed. From records of their wills, describing articles of clothing to be given to their families, we can see that they wore colorful clothing. The women and girls wore dresses of blue, green, purple, and red. One man owned a violet cloak, a red cap, and a green pair of trousers. And there is no historical proof that the Pilgrims wore buckles on their shoes or hats!
- Most Pilgrim children had common names like Mary or John. But several had names that showed their parents’ values and beliefs, such as Resolved White, Humility Cooper, and Love Brewster.