By: Stephenie “Remedi” Lai, Staff Writer
With the changing colors of the trees and the brisk November air comes one of my favorite holidays – Thanksgiving! While we are all enjoying this holiday with our family and friends, some might wonder where this tradition came from.
The origins of Thanksgiving date back to the year 1620, when the Mayflower ship arrived in Massachusetts Bay. All 102 passengers on the ship were plagued with diseases and suffered greatly. Only half of them made it through the winter.
An American Indian named Squanto greeted the settlers when springtime came. He taught the Pilgrims how to survive by cultivating corn, extracting sap from maple trees, catching fish and avoiding poisonous plants. Their friendship eventually led to an alliance between the Pilgrims and the Wapanoag tribe.
In November 1621, the skills of the Pilgrims had flourished, providing them a bountiful autumn harvest. Gov. William Bradford orchestrated a celebratory feast for the Pilgrims and American Indians. The feast became widely known as the first Thanksgiving and it lasted for three days.
Historians believe the traditional Thanksgiving dishes from back then have been transformed throughout the years to arrive at what we have today. Considering the advances in technology and changes in modern cooking, this certainly seems to be true. For example, there was a shortage of maple sap during this inaugural feast. With the lack of sugar and no oven, pies and desserts were not seen on the 1621 menu.
The second Thanksgiving celebration was held in 1623. This feast marked the end of a long drought that depleted the Pilgrims’ harvest causing an involuntary fast among settlers.
Since then, individual colonies and states began taking up the tradition. In 1789, George Washington issued a Thanksgiving proclamation for Americans to express their gratitude for an end to the American Revolution. Finally in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving Day a national holiday to be observed every November.
So, as we go on to celebrate this day with our friends and family, looking back on the year and our blessings, we should also be reminded of where these traditions come from and why it is such an important celebration.