Thanksgiving: A history

A look at everyone’s favorite fall holiday

Don’t even try to tell me you haven’t seen the Schoolhouse Rock Thanksgiving episode.

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Don’t even try to tell me you haven’t seen the Schoolhouse Rock Thanksgiving episode.

Madi Sonnenberg, Web Editor

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With Thanksgiving break only a little more than a week away, it is time to start pulling out the Pilgrim placemats and turkey décor in preparation for the best Thursday in the month of November: Thanksgiving! Although many people are familiar with the Thanksgiving story, I thought it would be appropriate to relive the elementary school history lesson of how the great holiday of Thanksgiving came to be as we inch closer to this festive time.

The year is 1620. A small ship named the Mayflower leaves England, its passengers seeking a new life in the New World. After a treacherous 66 day journey, these first Pilgrims landed in America near Cape Cod, crossed the Massachusetts Bay, and established a settlement at Plymouth. The first winter proved costly to the Pilgrims and half of them perished. The survivors were greeted in the spring by an Abenaki Indian who introduced them to Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe. Squanto taught the weakened Pilgrims how to grow corn, catch fish, and identify poisonous plants. With Squanto’s help, the Pilgrims cultivated a relationship with the local Wampanoag tribe.

In November 1621, in celebration of their first successful corn harvest, the Pilgrims held a feast with the helpful Native Americans. The festival lasted for three days and journal records indicate that fowl and deer were likely on the menu, prepared using traditional Native American spices and techniques. Since the Mayflower’s sugar supply had diminished, unfortunately desserts were not part of the first Thanksgiving Day feast. The Pilgrims took time to give thanks for all their blessings and for all the help they received from the local Indian tribes.

Although the Pilgrims probably had no idea that they were the founders of one of America’s biggest holidays, they indeed took part in what we know of today as the “first Thanksgiving.” Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving an official holiday in 1863, and the rest is history! No matter how you celebrate Thanksgiving, sometimes it is important to stop and remember the brave Pilgrims who made the initial journey to America and who set the stage for hundreds of Thanksgivings to come.

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