Americans harbor misconceptions about Thanksgiving

by Erin Burke, Features

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Many people have misconceptions about the history of Thanksgiving. The first Thanksgiving was not at all like the holiday we celebrate today. Over the 400 years that Thanksgiving has prevailed, new traditions have been created, and ancient ones forgotten.

For example, the NFL did not become a part of Thanksgiving until 300 years subsequent to the original feast. Although not everyone agrees about the first Thanksgiving celebration, historians have pieced together information that describes what the original Thanksgiving was probably like.

Thanksgiving was originally celebrated in honor of a successful harvest for the pilgrims. After European pilgrims first arrived to the New World in November of 1620, diseases and a harsh winter killed off more than half of the settlers by spring. It was clear that the pilgrims needed help in order to survive in America.

The pilgrims’ help came in the form of a few English-speaking Native Americans, one of whom was Squanto. After the first successful harvest, European Governor William Bradford organized a three-day celebration, and invited Native Americans.

However, not all Native Americans were in favor of living peacefully with the pilgrims, and not all pilgrims wanted to live in unity with Native Americans after all of the conflict between Native Americans and Europeans in the past.

Most people agree that the first Thanksgiving feast occurred in New England, where the pilgrims settled. They intended to plant crops to live off of, but after arriving five months later than planned, they missed the growing season.

The fall of 1621 proved to be the first successful harvest for the pilgrims, which led to the first Thanksgiving celebration.

Our current Thanksgiving meal differs from the original feast. According to a letter written by a pilgrim at the feast, the meal included some type of wildfowl, but it probably wasn’t turkey.

More likely, it would have been duck, passenger pigeon, swan, or goose. Being in New England, they most likely dined on lobster, mussels, and clams as well.

The Native Americans brought five deer as a gift, so venison was also a part of the first Thanksgiving feast.

From the harvest, pilgrims obtained crops such as maize, pumpkins, squash, and beans. The forest provided them with chestnuts, walnuts, and beechnuts. Their first feast did not feature desserts because the pilgrims’ supply of sugar had been depleted.

There were no potatoes at the feast either because they had not yet been brought to New England from Europe. Along with the extravagant feast, the celebration included activities such as hunting and games.

Thanksgiving did not immediately become an annual celebration; the second Thanksgiving was celebrated two years later between the pilgrims and Native Americans to commemorate the end of a long drought in New England.

More than a century later, George Washington issued a day of thanks in 1789 to celebrate the nation’s newfound independence. The next two United States Presidents designated days of thanks as well. Starting in 1827, Sarah Josepha Hale, author of the nursery rhyme, “Mary had a Little Lamb,” campaigned to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.

It wasn’t until Abraham Lincoln’s presidency 36 years later that Thanksgiving was established as a national holiday, scheduled for the final Thursday in November.

It is widely unknown that in 1939, president Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up a week to try to increase retail sales during the Great Depression. Americans protested his change, known as “Franksgiving,” and in 1941, Roosevelt signed a bill to replace Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November.

Thanksgiving has changed substantially over the course of its 400 year history. While many traditions have come and gone, Thanksgiving continues to be one of America’s most popular holidays.

The American tradition has stood the test of time thanks to many people in favor of celebrating all that there is to be thankful for.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




Navigate Right
Navigate Left
  • Americans harbor misconceptions about Thanksgiving

    Showcase

    Toys for Teens campaign a win for everyone

  • Americans harbor misconceptions about Thanksgiving

    Showcase

    Alternative Ed. partners with Liberty Woods for holidays

  • Americans harbor misconceptions about Thanksgiving

    News

    NHS members rake leaves for local residents

  • Americans harbor misconceptions about Thanksgiving

    News

    Lakers taking advantage of One Team, One Laker campaign

  • Americans harbor misconceptions about Thanksgiving

    News

    The Chalkboard Project joins Mike Smith in Lincoln, Nebraska event

  • Americans harbor misconceptions about Thanksgiving

    Showcase

    Top seniors honored by GHACF at Excellence in Education

  • Americans harbor misconceptions about Thanksgiving

    Showcase

    Annual ‘Shindig’ raises money for physical/health education, sports

  • Americans harbor misconceptions about Thanksgiving

    Showcase

    Quiz Bowl captures 2nd in State Tourney

  • Americans harbor misconceptions about Thanksgiving

    Showcase

    ‘The Addams Family’ plays to packed house

  • Americans harbor misconceptions about Thanksgiving

    Showcase

    The Chalkboard Project draws media attention, praise

Americans harbor misconceptions about Thanksgiving