Happy Thanksgiving Day

Interesting Facts of Thanksgiving Day

November 23, 2017

Historical Background

Thanksgiving Day is a nationwide holiday taking place annually in November in the U.S. and Canada. It is marked by the end of the harvesting season and is usually associated with people expressing gratitude for the blessings of the departing year. According to a popular belief, traditional Thanksgiving originated from a 1621 harvest feast celebrated by the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony and the Wampanoag people. At present, the American holiday is characterized by legends, symbolic meaning, and an array of festivities, including a traditional Thanksgiving meal that involves a savoring turkey, potatoes, and a pumpkin pie. The most remarkable feature of this holiday is that it brings family members together at a solemnly set table.

The initial Thanksgiving Day commenced with a few colonists who were in the quest for fowl, probably for turkeys, geese, or ducks. On the other hand, there were roughly 90 Wampanoag, who ambushed the colonists at the settlement’s gate. After two days of negotiations, the former granted venison as a token of their respect for the Pilgrims, thereby initiating a large-scale feast. In view of the lack of buildings and manufactured goods, Plymouth hosted people in the front yard. The whole occasion was accompanied by a range of amusing activities, including drinking liquor, running races, and socializing in broken English. Eventually, such bonding facilitated a long-lasting treaty between the two groups.

When the U.S. Constitution came into force in 1789, the Congress declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. However, after 1798, the new authority made each state responsible for the declaration of the holiday. Such a decision triggered a series of confrontations between the indigenous population and the colonists of New England as not all people were willing to adopt a new custom.

Nevertheless, some viewed national Thanksgiving Day as a prerequisite to unity. Particularly, the proponent of this theory Sarah Josepha Hale even gained the advocacy of President Abraham Lincoln. Accordingly, he proclaimed Thursday, November 26, a national day of thanksgiving.

Every subsequent celebration of the holiday was publicly announced by every president. Not considering few exceptions, the date of this event was usually the last Thursday in November. Additionally, only in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt officially proclaimed the fourth Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving Day.

In Canada, this holiday also traces back to the colonial times stemming from the same European traditions. The celebration designated people’s gratitude for peace, fruitful harvests, and other blessings. The initial acknowledgement of Thanksgiving Day dates back to 1578. It was marked by a ceremony held in present-day Nunavut by an expedition headed by Martin Frobisher, who wanted to thank for the safety of his fleet.  Since 1957, Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October.

With the advent of urbanization and modern lifestyle, people observe a shift in the meaning of Thanksgiving Day. Currently, it presupposes family gatherings, the celebration of the sanctity of home and family relationships, and an opportunity for newcomers to integrate into the authentic culture of the country. 

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