* Irene's Country Corner * - Thanksgiving History and Traditions


Thanksgiving History and Traditions


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During the American Revolution (late 1770's) a day of national thanksgiving held after the harvest was suggested by the Continental Congress. In 1817 New York State had adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom. By the middle of the 19th century many other states also celebrated a Thanksgiving Day. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln appointed a national day of thanksgiving. Since then each president has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation, usually designating the fourth Thursday of each November as the holiday.

Thanksgiving was first celebrated by Pilgrims and Native Americans in colonial New England in the early 17th century. Its actual origin, however, probably traces to harvest festivals that have been traditional in many parts of the world since ancient times. Today Thanksgiving is mainly a celebration of domestic life, centered on the home and family.

In the United States, Thanksgiving is also the start of the Christmas shopping season. Aside from the idea of celebrating a plentiful harvest, gathering the family and preparing a large meal, people also celebrate Thanksgiving Day with parades, which often feature children and adults dressed in Pilgrim costumes.

The Thanksgiving Day Parades, probably got their start when President Lincoln proclaimed an official day of Thanksgiving. Any official event declared by the President would have been accompanied by a show of military strength and discipline such as a full-dress parade. Today, elaborate floats, musical shows and entertainment celebrities have replaced the parades of armed and uniformed men.

Many of the images associated with Thanksgiving derive from old traditions of celebrating harvest. The cornucopia, a horn-shaped basket filled with fruits and vegetables, is a typical symbol of Thanksgiving abundance that dates to ancient harvest festivals. Many communities also decorate their churches with fruits, flowers, and vegetables at Thanksgiving, such as European communities have done for centuries during the autumn harvest season.

The key to a Thanksgiving menu is to choose foods that will represent the idea of giving thanks for a good year, a harvesting of good fortune, and the sharing of the bounty of your efforts with friends and family.

Today, Thanksgiving menus usually include turkey, bread-crumb stuffing, cranberry sauce, squash, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Though there is no real evidence that turkey was served at the Pilgrim's first thanksgiving, in a book written by the Pilgrim's Governor Bradford he does make mention of wild turkeys. In a letter sent to England, another Pilgrim describes how the governor sent "four men out fowling" returning with turkeys, ducks and geese. While it is possible that turkeys may have been killed, it is more likely that ducks or geese were the primary targets. Tough, resourceful, able to fly and hard to catch, turkeys were not the first choice of either Native Americans or early colonial hunters.

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This page was created on: September 14th 2003.
~ Information obtained at the following sites:
Thanksgiving Day Traditions and Thanksgiving on the net ~
~ Graphics by
Mary's Little Lamb & Graphics by Grace ~

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