Significance of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving (also known as Thanksgiving Day) is an important federal holiday, celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. Thanksgiving precedes “Black Friday” and is traditionally a holiday to give thanks for the food collected at the end of the harvest season.
History of Thanksgiving
In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers embarked on a journey to discover the New World. After a treacherous journey lasting 66 days, they arrived near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth. Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore and began to harvest with help and alliance with Native Americans of the area. This alliance tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.
In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a three-day celebratory feast, now remembered as American’s “First Thanksgiving”- although, it is argued that the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term “Thanksgiving” at the time. Historians also argue that the Pilgrims had their first true thanksgiving in 1623, when they gave thanks for rain that ended a drought. In the second half of the 1600s, thanksgivings after the harvest became more common and started to become annual events. George Washington, the first president of the United States, proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day in 1789 and it officially became an annual holiday in 1863.
Traditions of Thanksgiving
Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated in a secular manner as well. Thanksgiving is a time for many people to give thanks for what they have. Presently, it has become a day for families and friends to get together for a special meal. The meal often includes a turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, pumpkin pie, and vegetables. Volunteering is a common Thanksgiving Day activity, and communities often hold food drives and host free dinners for the less fortunate. Parades have also become an important part of the holiday in cities and towns across the United States.