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Thanksgiving Day Essay

ABSTRACT

The tradition started when in 1620 a group of men, woman and children left England on a ship called Mayflower. They were pilgrims and they wanted to start a new life in the New World. The voyage was very hard. They were cold and hungry and most of them died. The voyage took 66 days and they landed on the north-east coast of North America what today we know as Massachusetts. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. One day they met some Native American Indian and they thought the pilgrims how to grow corn, how to hunt, how to fish, etc.

The summer harvest was very good and successful that they wanted to celebrate and they invited the Native Americans to a dinner where they gave thanks to God for the food, now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”. Thanksgiving didn’t became an annual tradition until 200 years later. Turkey wasn’t on the first American thanksgiving menu, they also didn’t have pumpkin pie or potatoes. In 1827 Sarah Josepha Hale launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863.

He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November, and it was celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan was very criticize, and in 1941 the president reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.

Introduction

Every November, the US celebrates Thanksgiving Day – a national holiday when families come together to share food, enjoy parades and watch American football. Through movies and TV shows, loads of people around the world are aware of Thanksgiving, roughly when it takes place, and that it tends to involve Americans eating a lot of turkey – and something called ‘yams’ But far fewer people know what’s actually being celebrated on Thanksgiving. So as the holiday approaches, here’s everything you need to know about Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. It is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and on the second Monday of October in Canada. Several other places around the world observe similar celebrations. Thanksgiving has its historical roots in religious and cultural traditions and has long been celebrated in a secular manner as well. [4 ]

INFORMATION

When is Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November. This year that falls on Thursday, November 27th. [4 ] Most government offices, businesses and schools close on Thanksgiving Day – with many closing on the Friday after, too, giving their employees a four day weekend. [4 ]

The traditional Thanksgiving meal revolves around turkey, stuffing and vegetables. You’ll also hear Americans talking about eating yams. Yams are a starchy root vegetable widely grown in the Carribean. [1 ] But usually when Americans talk about yams, they actually mean sweet potatoes. [1 ] The meal is traditionally rounded off with a pumpkin pie. [1 ]

History

The celebration of Thanksgiving is, in general, a feast to give thanks for the fruits of the previous harvest. In America specifically, it dates back to the 1600s. There’s some argument over when the first Thanksgiving was, but many think it dates back to 1621, when the harvest was celebrated by the Pilgrims – Dutch settlers of the Plymouth Colony in what’s now called Massachusetts. It spread through the new country and was celebrated on different days in different communities until, in 1789, George Washington declared the first national Thanksgiving Day. [1 ]

THANKSGIVING AT PLYMOUTH

In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor 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. [2 ] 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 and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans. [2 ]

In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days. While no record exists of the historic banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. [2 ]

Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in 1623 to mark the end of a long drought that had threatened the year’s harvest and prompted Governor Bradford to call for a religious fast. Days of fasting and thanksgiving on an annual or occasional basis became common practice in other New England settlements as well. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year, and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving. [3 ]

In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; each celebrated it on a different day, however, and the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition. In 1827, the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale—author, among countless other things, of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”—launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians.

Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November, and it was celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan, known derisively as Franksgiving, was met with passionate opposition, and in 1941 the president reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November. [2 ]

THANKSGIVING TRADITIONS

In many American households, the Thanksgiving celebration has lost much of its original religious significance; instead, it now centers on cooking and sharing a bountiful meal with family and friends. Turkey, a Thanksgiving staple so ubiquitous it has become all but synonymous with the holiday, may or may not have been on offer when the Pilgrims hosted the inaugural feast in 1621. Today, however, nearly 90 percent of Americans eat the bird—whether roasted, baked or deep-fried—on Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation. Other traditional foods include stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Volunteering is a common Thanksgiving Day activity, and communities often hold food drives and host free dinners for the less fortunate. [3 ]

THANKSGIVING’S ANCIENT ORIGINS

Although the American concept of Thanksgiving developed in the colonies of New England, its roots can be traced back to the other side of the Atlantic. Both the Separatists who came over on the Mayflower and the Puritans who arrived soon after brought with them a tradition of providential holidays—days of fasting during difficult or pivotal moments and days of feasting and celebration to thank God in times of plenty. [2 ]

As an annual celebration of the harvest and its bounty, moreover, Thanksgiving falls under a category of festivals that spans cultures, continents and millennia. In ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest. [3 ] Thanksgiving also bears a resemblance to the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. Finally, historians have noted that Native Americans had a rich tradition of commemorating the fall harvest with feasting and merrymaking long before Europeans set foot on their shores. [2 ]

REFERENCES

1- World news/ Thanksgiving.(2013).Thanksgiving Day. Retrieved April 20,2015from: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/what-thanksgiving-americans-celebrating-today-4700036 Why are Americans celebrating today?.November 27,2014.Mirror Web site of the year. On-line. Retrieved April 20,2015from: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/what-thanksgiving-americans-celebrating-today-4700036 2- History Channel (2009). HISTORY OF THANKSGIVING. Retrieved April 20,2015 from: http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving HISTORY OF THANKSGIVING. History Channel (2009).On-line. Retrieved April 20,2015 from: http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving 3- Christian answers (2008).Thanksgiving Day. Retrieved April 20,2015 from: http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/ednkc002.html Millard, Catherine. Why do Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day?. CHRISTIAN ANSWERS (2006). On-line. Retrieved April 20,2015 from: http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/ednkc002.html 4- Encyclopedia Britannica (2014). Thanksgiving Day. Retrieved April 20,2015 from: http://global.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/590003/Thanksgiving-Day Silverman,David. Thanksgiving Day.March 7, 2014. On-line. Retrieved April 20,2015 from: http://global.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/590003/Thanksgiving-Day


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