In November 1621, after the Pilgrims? first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony?s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American?s ?first Thanksgiving??although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time?the festival lasted for three days. While no record exists of the historic banquet?s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a ?fowling? mission in preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower?s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations.
Well, the meaning and the origin are two different things.
As I'm sure you already know, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by a group of early settlers who'd managed to survive their first winter in the New World with the help of the native population. The early settlers were giving thanks to G-d, but Thanksgiving isn't really a religious holiday--it's about taking a moment to appreciate the things you have, regardless of where you choose to direct that appreciation.
The real life story of the first Thanksgiving didn't have the happiest of epilogues--particularly for the Native Americans--but that's the origin of the holiday, anyway.
Historically, Thanksgiving has been a celebration of the bounty of the harvest and a time to give thanks for all that it means--survival, health, and plenty. Today, it means different things to different people. Food. Football. A time to give to those less fortunate.
For me, Thanksgiving means food, family, and love--things for which I'm thankful every day, but I look forward to saying it out loud, anyway.
Thanksgiving was a way the pilgrims thanked the Native Americans in their area for giving them the knowledge and survival techniques to survive their first winter in the New World. So some today celebrate Thanksgiving as a time to thank God for their bounty. I prefer to see it as a time to thank the people, past and present, who have made it possible for me to have what I have.
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Last edited at 12:25PM on 11/22/2013
In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn't until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.