The history of Thanksgiving began in 1621. The celebration was done to give thanks to God and the Native Americans who helped the English settlers cope with the winter season in Plymouth in Massachusetts.
Records show that prior to 1621, there were other thanksgiving celebrations. The first on record took place on September 8, 1565. Pedro Menendez de Aviles led a group of 600 Spanish immigrants to St. Augustine, Florida. When they made it to land, the group gave thanks to God and a feast was held.
The town of San Elizario in El Paso Texas was another site of an early thanksgiving. Don Juan de Onate declared that the settlers should hold thanksgiving on April 30, 1598. But in the history of Thanksgiving,
these events are usually not considered as the first. The reason is that the celebrations taking place now are a continuation of the thanksgiving celebrations that took place in Plymouth.
Date of Thanksgiving
As the centuries went by, Thanksgiving became an annual tradition. It was President Abraham Lincoln who declared that the final Thursday of November be the date of Thanksgiving. This tradition has been followed ever since. The only exception was when President Franklin Roosevelt declared that Thanksgiving be moved to the third Thursday of November.
Roosevelt made this declaration (the only one in the history of Thanksgiving) in 1939. By setting back the date a week earlier, he hoped to encourage people to go shopping earlier. This would result in more profits for business. He saw this as a means for ending the Great Depression.
However, people had become accustomed to the final Thursday in November as the date. Eventually Roosevelt reset the date back to the original one. What this means is that the date can occur anytime from November 22 to 28.
The Typical Thanksgiving Celebration
There are certain foods that are always featured on Thanksgiving meals. First and foremost is roasted turkey. Other popular foods included are mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and sweet corn.
The history of Thanksgiving shows that saying grace or giving thanks to God is done prior to eating. Although Thanksgiving has become a secular holiday, many people still perform prayer or say grace.
Thanksgiving also means travel and vacation. In the US, thanksgiving and the day after are holidays. For schools and colleges, the vacation lasts for up to five days. Other staples on the day are parades. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade takes place In Manhattan.
The day after is called Black Friday, or the official start of the Christmas season. Football games are also an integral part of the season with games held on the day. In addition, many TV and radio programs air special shows and movies on the date. Some also begin to play Christmas songs on the day or the day after.
The ways in which the holiday is celebrated has changed through the years. However, the meaning has not been lost, something every student of the history of Thanksgiving can attest to.