Thanksgiving: Then and Now

Thanksgiving: Then and Now

Thanksgiving is celebrating the harvest and other blessings of the past year. Massasoit, a Native American chief, sent some of his own men to hunt deer for the first feast. For three days, the English and native men, women, and children ate together. Although prayers and thanks were probably offered at the 1621 harvest gathering, the first recorded religious Thanksgiving Day in Plymouth happened two years later in 1623.

The First Thanksgiving

For a brief time beginning in 1668, November 25 was considered the “legal” annual day of Thanksgiving, but that practice lasted only five years. It may be that Thursday became a tradition in order to distance the event from the Sabbath day among the Puritan colonists. For meat, the Wampanoag brought deer, and the Pilgrims provided wild “fowl.” Strictly speaking, that “fowl” could have been turkeys, which were native to the area.

Instead, the table was loaded with native fruits like plums, melons, grapes, and cranberries, plus local vegetables such as leeks, wild onions, beans, Jerusalem artichokes, and squash. The only thing that might be the same now is eating pumpkins, however not pumpkin pie. The first Thanksgiving wasn’t one big feast but actually went on for a full week. Some days everyone would eat together and on other days they would eat separately.

Modern Day Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day is a day for people in the US to give thanks for what they have. Families and friends get together for a meal, which traditionally includes a roast turkey, stuffing, potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce, gravy, and pumpkin pie. Volunteering is a common Thanksgiving Day activity, and communities often hold food drives and host free dinners for the less fortunate.