Thanksgiving is one of the most popular and beloved holidays in the United States. It’s a time to gather with family and friends, enjoy a feast of turkey and other traditional dishes, and express gratitude for the blessings of the past year. But how much do you know about the history and meaning of this holiday?
In this blog post, we’ll explore the origins and evolution of Thanksgiving, as well as some of the controversies and challenges that it faces today.
The first Thanksgiving is commonly associated with the Pilgrims and Native Americans who celebrated a successful harvest in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621. According to some accounts, the feast lasted for three days and included about 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians. The menu consisted of venison, corn, shellfish, and wild fowl, but not necessarily turkey.
However, the Pilgrims were not the first to observe a day of thanksgiving in America. Other colonists and explorers had held similar ceremonies of gratitude before them, such as the Spanish in Florida in 1565, the French in Texas in 1598, and the English in Virginia in 1619.
The tradition of Thanksgiving continued sporadically throughout the colonial period, usually in response to specific events or blessings. It was not until 1777 that the Continental Congress declared the first national Thanksgiving Day to celebrate the victory over the British at Saratoga. Later, in 1789, George Washington issued a proclamation for a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, but it was not an annual event.
The person who is largely credited for making Thanksgiving a national holiday is Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor and author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. She campaigned for nearly 40 years to persuade presidents and governors to establish a fixed date for Thanksgiving.
She finally succeeded in 1863, when Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving and praise to God for the nation’s survival during the Civil War. This date remained unchanged until 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved it up a week to boost the economy during the Great Depression. However, this caused confusion and opposition, so he restored it to the original date in 1941.
While Thanksgiving is widely celebrated as a national holiday, it is not without its critics and detractors. Some Native Americans and their allies view Thanksgiving as a day of mourning, rather than a day of celebration. They point out the historical injustices and atrocities committed against the indigenous peoples of America, such as the massacres, land theft, forced assimilation, and cultural erasure. They also challenge the romanticized and sanitized version of the first Thanksgiving, which ignores the complex and often violent relationship between the colonists and the natives.
Another source of controversy surrounding Thanksgiving is the environmental and ethical impact of consuming turkey. According to the National Turkey Federation, Americans eat about 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving, which amounts to about 736 million pounds of turkey meat. This requires a huge amount of resources, such as water, land, feed, and energy, to raise and slaughter these animals.
Moreover, many turkeys are raised in factory farms, where they suffer from overcrowding, mutilation, disease, and abuse. Some people choose to boycott turkey or adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet on Thanksgiving, as a way of protesting against the animal cruelty and environmental damage caused by the meat industry.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that has a rich and complex history, as well as a diverse and dynamic present. It is a time to reflect on the past, appreciate the present, and hope for the future. It is also a time to recognize the challenges and controversies that surround this holiday, and to respect the different perspectives and experiences of others.
Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, we hope you enjoyed learning more about this American tradition. We invite you to share your thoughts and stories of Thanksgiving in the comments below.
Thank you for reading our blog post. We wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.