Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated in Canada and the United States as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and the new year. It is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. The first Thanksgiving celebration was held in 1621. Traditional foods are turkey, sweet potatoes, fruits and vegetables. Many people have pumpkin pie for dessert at the end of the meal. It is a time for counting our blessings we have received during the year and being with our families and friends. But… How much do you know about its origins?
Modern Thanksgiving has its direct origins in American history. In 1609, a group of Puritans fleeing religious persecution in England moved to Holland. They lived in Holland for a number of years until a group of English investors — the Merchant Adventurers — financed a trip for more than 100 passengers to the New World.
On Sept. 6, 1620, they set sail on a ship called the Mayflower, leaving from England and arriving in the New World after 65 days. They settled in a town called Plymouth in what is now Massachusetts. The Pilgrims’ first winter was so harsh that fewer than 50 of the group survived the season.
On March 16, 1621, an Abnaki Indian (or Native American) named Samoset entered the Plymouth settlement. He welcomed the Pilgrims in English, and the next day returned with another Native American named Squanto, who spoke English well. With Squanto’s help, the Pilgrims were able to survive in the New World. He taught them how to get sap out of the maple trees, how to avoid plants that were poisonous and how to plant corn and other crops.
The harvest was very successful, due in large part to help from the Native Americans. The Pilgrims had enough food for the winter and had learned how -to survive in the New World. Plymouth Colony’s Governor, William Bradford, decided to throw a celebratory feast and invited the colony’s Native American neighbors to take part. The Native Americans brought food as well, and the celebration lasted for three days.
Historians believe that this celebration took place sometime in the fall. And although there are very few clues to reconstruct the feast, some scholars believe that food items, like venison and fish, were the main sources of protein, rather than turkey. It’s also thought that the food preparation would have been greatly influenced by Native American traditions since the Puritans had been instructed by Native Americans on how to cultivate and cook items.
Many view the first Thanksgiving as an example of the possibility of great respect and cooperation between two different cultures. But others see it as a symbol of the colonists’ eventual persecution of the Native Americans. Sadly, the friendly spirit of the first Thanksgiving and the 50-year period of peace that followed is one exception in a long history of bloodshed between Native American tribes and European settlers.
In 1970, some Native Americans began observing a Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving Day to remember the violence and discrimination suffered by their ancestors. The Day of Mourning is observed by gathering at the top of «Coles Hill,» which overlooks Plymouth Rock.