The story of Thanksgiving as know in America was developed from humble beginnings with the Pilgrims. Before the Pilgrims enjoyed their celebration many other cultures had festivals related to food. The reasons where varied, from thanking some higher power for their bounty to praying for future high outputs of crops. The Pilgrims, faced in a new land in their eyes were thanking a higher power for their mere survival.
The Pilgrim’s Search for Freedom
The Pilgrims, originally fleeing England to find religious freedom, found their way to the land we now call America. While a long and difficult journey, those that survived the trip found some success in the new land. This time was short lived with the approach of winter. The crops were not enough to support the small group of Pilgrims but they found plenty in their new environment to provide for their needs.
What is commonly known as Thanksgiving was not the holiday we celebrate today. In 1621, it was a celebration of the harvest. This day consisted of a three day feast with food and entertainment. To supplement the crops, a group of men hunted in the surrounding area with surprisingly high results. With the help of Native Americas, the Pilgrims were pleased with the amount of food they were able to gather even though their crops were not completely successful.
Native America provided Indian corn, which helped to supplement the Pilgrims corn supplies. The Native Americas also helped supply local meats to help the Pilgrims through their winter.
This celebration was not an annual event so the annual Holiday as we know it has seen some changes. The original celebration probably occurred in September or October, with the changing of the seasons. It was President Lincoln that established Thanksgiving as a national holiday, in 1863. Since this time, we celebrate in November.
Foods for the Pilgrims
The Pilgrim could only enjoy the foods that they could store, grow, or catch while in their new homeland. Fish would be plentiful along with other seafood items. Wild birds were also abundant. Turkey could have been at the first celebration but duck and goose could have played an equal part in the festivities.
Hunting deer was also part of the celebration so venison would be part of the meal. Corn, squash, acorns and beans would have grown well in the area. Items like pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce were introduced in Thanksgiving Day celebrations well after the first meal of thanks.
Even with some of the changes in meal items, the purpose of the meal is still important. This celebration reminds us to be thankful for what we have but also to show us our inner strength. With almost everything against the Pilgrims, a will to succeed and a desire for a better life begin the foundation for America today. The history of Thanksgiving provides a great story for the holidays.