Almost in every culture in the world there is a celebration of thanks
for rich harvest. The American Thanksgiving began as a feast of thanksgiving
almost four hundred years ago.
In 1620, a religious community sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to settle
in New World. They settled in what is not known as the state of Massachusetts.
Their first winter in America was difficult. They arrived too late to
grow a rich harvest. Moreover, half the Iroquois Indians taught them
also how to grow other crops and how to hunt and fish.
In the autumn of 1621 they got a beautiful harvest of corn, barley,
beans and pumpkins. The colonists had much to be thankful for, so they
planned a feast. The colonists learned from Indians how to cook cranberries
and dishes of corn and pumpkins.
In following years many of the colonists celebrated the harvest with
a feast of thanks. After the United States gained independence, Congress
recommended one yearly day of thanksgiving for the whole country. Later,
George Washington suggested the date November 26 as Thanksgiving Day.
Then, after the civil war, Abraham Lincoln suggested the last Thursday
in November to be the day of thanksgiving.
On Thanksgiving Day, family members gather at the house of an older
relative, even if they live far away. All give thanks for everything
good they have. Charitable organizations offer traditional meal to the
Foods, eaten at the first thanksgiving, have become traditional. The
traditional thanksgiving meal consists of roast turkey stuffed with
herb-flavored bread, cranberry jelly, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie.
Other dishes may vary as to region: ham, sweet, potatoes, creamed corn.
A Celebration of Thanksgiving
The origins of Thanksgiving predated the Pilgrims at least 2,000 years.
After the harvest of each year was safely stored for the winter, Celtic
priests, the Druids, would mark the end of their calendar with prayers
to their sun god for protection during the period of darkness and cold
of winter. These harvest festivals evolved and became combined with
a Christian Feast of Saints.
The first formal celebration of Thanksgiving in North America was held
by an English explorer, Martin Frobisher, who attempted to establish
an English settlement on Baffin Island, after failing to discover a
northern passage to the Orient in 1576. Canada established the second
Monday in October as a national holiday, "a day of general thanksgiving,"
The Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock held their Thanksgiving in 1621 as a three
day "thank you" celebration to the leaders of the Wampanoag
Indian tribe and their families for teaching them the survival skills
they needed to make it in the New World. It was their good fortune that
the tradition of the Wampanoags was to treat any visitor to their homes
with a share of whatever food the family had, even if supplies were
low. It was also an amazing stroke of luck that one of the Wampanoag,
Tisquantum or Squanto, had become close friends with a British explorer,
John Weymouth, and had learned the Pilgrim's language in his travels
to England with Weymouth. Wild turkey was on the menu, along with corn
(Pilgrim's wheat), Indian corn, barley, peas, waterfowl, five deer (brought
by the Indians as their dish to pass), bass and cod. Since then, we've
added such delicacies as ham, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, popcorn,
cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. What? Pumpkin pie is not authentic?
The Pilgrims probably made pumpkin pudding sweetened with honey, but
they didn't have sugar, crust or whipped topping. Life was tough back
The turkey tradition was really pushed by Benjamin Franklin, who wanted
to make it the United States national symbol because it is a quick runner,
wary, with sharp eyesight, and exhibited a regal stance, at least to
Franklin. While the bald eagle nudged out the wild turkey for our official
national symbol, Norman Rockwell has probably made the image of the
family Thanksgiving turkey even more famous, and certainly more mouth
The actual day we celebrate Thanksgiving in America was picked by our
presidents, starting with George Washington who declared a one-time
holiday. Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November to
be "...a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father
who dwelleth in the Heavens." Franklin D. Roosevelt moved it to
the fourth Thursday of November in 1939, to prevent a 5 week November
from shortening the Christmas shopping season.
T for time to be together, turkey, talk, and tangy weather.
H for harvest stored away, home, and hearth, and holiday.
A for autumn's frosty art, and abundance in the heart.
N for neighbours, and October, nice things, new things to remember.
K for kitchen, kettles' croon, kith and kin expected soon.
S for sizzles, sights, and sounds, and something special that abounds.
Did You Know?
Americans did not invent Thanksgiving. It began in Canada. Frobisher's
celebration in 1578 was 43 years before the pilgrims gave thanks in
1621 for the bounty that ended a year of hardships and death. Abraham
Lincoln established the date for the US as the last Thursday in November.
In 1941, US Congress set the National Holiday as the fourth Thursday
Frobisher and early colonists, giving thanks for safe passage, as well
as pilgrim celebrations in the US that began the traditions of turkeys,
pumpkin pies, and the gathering of family and friends.
There are three traditions behind our Canadian Thanksgiving Day.
1. Long ago, before the first Europeans arrived in North America, the
farmers in Europe held celebrations at harvest time. To give thanks
for their good fortune and the abundance of food, the farm workers filled
a curved goat's horn with fruit and grain. This symbol was called a
cornucopia or horn of plenty. When they came to Canada they brought
this tradition with them.
2. In the year 1578, the English navigator Martin Frobisher held a formal
ceremony, in what is now called Newfoundland, to give thanks for surviving
the long journey. He was later knighted and had an inlet of the Atlantic
Ocean in northern Canada named after him — Frobisher Bay. Other settlers
arrived and continued these ceremonies.
3. The third came in the year 1621, in what is now the United States,
when the Pilgrims celebrated their harvest in the New World. The Pilgrims
were English colonists who had founded a permanent European settlement
at Plymouth Massachusetts. By the 1750's, this joyous celebration was
brought to Nova Scotia by American settlers from the south.
At the same time, French settlers, having crossed the ocean and arrived
in Canada with explorer Samuel de Champlain, also held huge feasts of
thanks. They even formed "The Order of Good Cheer" and gladly
shared their food with their Indian neighbours.
After the Seven Year's War ended in 1763, the citizens of Halifax held
a special day of Thanksgiving.
The Americans who remained faithful to the government in England were
known as Loyalists. At the time of the American revolution, they moved
to canada and spread the Thanksgiving celebration to other parts of
the country. many of the new English settlers from Great Britain were
also used to having a harvest celebration in their churches every autumn.
Eventually in 1879, Parliament declared November 6th a day of Thanksgiving
and a national holiday. Over the years many dates were used for Thanksgiving,
the most popular was the 3rd Monday in October. After World War I, both
Armistice Day and Thanksgiving were celebrated on the Monday of the
week in which November 11th occurred. Ten years later, in 1931, the
two days became separate holidays and Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance
Day. Finally, on January 31st, 1957, Parliament proclaimed....
Now, more than ever, we're reminded to treasure our families, communities,
and the institutions that raise our spirits, help the less fortunate,
and express our passions. As we move forward, join us in a new tradition.
This year, during the Thanksgiving holiday, as you come together for
family, friendship, food and fellowship, celebrate Giving Day.
· Make a Giving Day commitment to support your favorite cause with a
gift of time or money
· Express your values, compassion, and passions with your loved ones
by sharing your Giving Day commitment at Thanksgiving dinner
· Build a new tradition by encouraging others to celebrate Giving Day