Happy Turkey Day!

Mia Zaris

“Nom nom nom”, the sound of turkey munching fills the room.  It seems as if everybody is enjoying everything the holiday has to offer… but does anyone actually know what it is about? Does anybody really understand where it came from? 

The tradition we now know as “Thanksgiving” started with the early settlers of America, known as “Pilgrims” who settled at Plymouth, Massachusetts. They first held a celebration of their harvest in 1621, which would be recorded in history as the first-ever Thanksgiving. The feast was organized by Governor William Bradford who also invited the local Wampanoag Indians to join in on the meal. The first time they actually called the feast “Thanksgiving” was in 1623 after rainfall ended a long drought. The traditional foods that most Americans indulge in do not reflect those which the early settlers of Plymouth enjoyed. While turkey was indeed on the menu during the first few decades of Thanksgiving celebrations, the vast majority of food included vegetables that the harvest provided. Thanksgiving became an official holiday in 1863 and is now celebrated on the 4th Thursday of every November.

The history of how Thanksgiving became a holiday is not what you would expect.  Sarah Josepha Hale, a writer and activist, campaigned for a national Thanksgiving to try and unify the nation in the time of the Civil War in the United States during the 19th century, eventually winning President Abraham Lincoln’s support in 1863. He and subsequent presidents proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving annually until 1941 when Congress made Thanksgiving official by specifying the day of its celebration.

To celebrate the holiday, family and friends gather on Thanksgiving Day to feast.  Traditional foods that are enjoyed on Thanksgiving today are turkey, pumpkin pie, and cranberries.  Parades and football games are also a big part of the way Americans celebrate the special day.