The History of Thanksgiving


Libbie Cain



Thanksgiving, the first thing that comes to mind is a huge gathering of food, football, parades, and family, right? Thanksgiving occurs on the fourth Thursday of the month of  November. This holiday is based on an autumn harvest feast that occurred between the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Native Americans. We have all learned about the long trip the Plymouth colonists took on the small ship called the Mayflower. After the Pilgrims arrived in the new world they faced a brutal start to their new life, after they met the Wampanoag tribe to whom they held the great feast with. But is there more we don’t know about?


What did they eat at the first Thanksgiving?

For many people that celebrate Thanksgiving the meal includes foods such as the big turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. But what was really on the menu at the famous feast gathering? According to “ The Wampanoag brought a lot of local sea foods such as bass, mussels, and lobster; they also brought fruit, deer meat, and even pumpkin. The people of Plymouth most likely ate food that had a little in common with the traditional food we eat today for thanksgiving”. In “ On Plymouth Colony,” William Bradford’s famous writings found in the Plymouth colony he wrote about the feast that year stating that “there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison.” 


When did Thanksgiving become a national holiday?


Dating back to the battle of Saratoga America first called for a national holiday to celebrate the victory over the British . Then in 1789, George Washington called for a national holiday again to show thanks on the last Thursday of the month  of November to commemorate the end of the Revolutionary war. Afterwards in 1863,  during the height of the Civil war, both the Union and the Confederacy issued the final Thursday of the month of November to be Thanksgiving day a national holiday to celebrate the major victories. It wasn’t until Franklin D. Roosevelt  moved the holiday to be on the fourth Thursday of the month to try and spur retail prices during the Great Depression. Finally in 1941, president Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill making Thanksgiving officially the fourth Thursday in the month of November.


Thanksgiving Traditions 

For centuries in many households, the celebration of Thanksgiving has lost its original religious signifigouis. Instead Thanksgiving today is usually centered around cooking and surrounding ourselves with family and friends. But let’s take a step back in time and see what kinds of Traditions we still celebrate today. For centuries the breaking of the wishbone has been an ongoing tradition that represents good luck. The wishbone is a Y shaped bone that you receive after the carving of the turkey. You set the bone aside to let it dry and once the meal is over two people make their wishes and break the bone. Whoever ends up with the bigger piece is said to have their wish come true. Another tradition that has been carried around through the centuries is the sharing of thanks. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to go around the table and the people you love what you are most grateful for. It’s a wonderful experience to go around and talk about your favorite things that have occurred throughout the year. A different type of tradition is the Thanksgiving football game this tradition dates back all the as early as 1876, shortly after its creation. Families and friends gather around the tv screen watching as their favorite teams play in one of America’s most popular sports. There’s so many more traditions that have been happening for years. But what will happen to those traditions 100 years from now?