How Did Thanksgiving Come About?

Jocelyn, Staff Writer

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The majority of our Middlebrook community has celebrated the famous holiday of Thanksgiving – an opportunity to get together with family members and relatives, close friends, and all contribute to a gigantuous feast. Waiting to snatch away the mouth-watering turkey (or tofu for me!) from the plate embroidered with heaping mounds of stuffing, you tend to not eat as much throughout the beginning of the day in order to save your appetite. All of the family and friends’ stomachs thunder with hollowness, in need of thick gravy and creamy potatoes and, as a whole, everyone immediately plops down into their seats.

Chatting amongst yourselves, catching up on things that range from gossip to historical and current social issues, the essential goal is giving thanks. Although, what for? Perhaps, you may be uninformed about where this holiday originated. This holiday we all call Thanksgiving has a fascinating, historical context of how it became such a popular holiday.

First off, to provide some general background, during September of 1620, the Mayflower, a small ship which carried aboard a jumble of religious separatists, drifted away from Plymouth, England. Countless pilgrims were yearning for starting their lives with a clean slate, while others desired the prospect of land and commonly-talked-about potential for more ownership in this New World. Especially during these troubled times, many people fantasized over the stories told about the American colonies.

After a great while and a treacherous voyage overseas- for a total of 66 days- these hard working wanderers anchored their ship on the edge of Cape Cod. Unfortunately, this was an irrelevant area when it came to their goals, given that the pilgrims were searching for their destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. Where they settled was far north of this location.

Approximately a month later, full of struggles and travels, they intersected at the Massachusetts Bay. Although, instead of venturing off farther in these several months, they decided to try settling down in this area. More specifically, these people were attempting to create the foundation of a new village, one which we currently refer to as Plymouth.

Sadly, during the first immensely disastrous winter, the majority of the colonists remained on the ship, resulting in, as expected, an epidemic of scurvy, deadly exposure to the chilling temperatures, and other contagious diseases. Because of this, only about half of the Mayflower’s original pilgrims survived as long as to the point they were able to witness their first New England spring.

Later, moving farther up shore within March, the last dozens standing were unexpectedly and very briefly visited by a member of the Abenaki tribe. A handful of days later, the Native American returned with a member from the Pawtuxet group. Squanto, the name of the newly – introduced Indian, overcame many obstacles of a traumatizing life. Most notably speaking, he was previously kidnapped by a sea captain, an English male who imprisoned Squanto into slavery. Transporting the victim to London, there was a slim chance he would return to safety anytime soon. Luckily, he proved this wrong by escaping and returning to his homeland a while after, on an exploring tangent. Squanto was so friendly and welcoming to his new neighbors, that he offered many benefits to the pilgrims’ well-being. For instance, he taught them how to extract sap from the surrounding maple trees, be cautious around poisonous plants, fish in the rivers, and independently grow staple crops, such as corn. Squanto even accomplished as much as helping the settlers cultivate an alliance between the immigrants and a local Native American tribe, specifically the Wampanoag tribe. Miraculously, this relationship expanded on for about 50 years before fading out. Astonishingly, this occured all the while he was trying to personally overcome illness and malnourishment. To the modern day, this inspirational teamwork between two vastly different cultures, or lifestyles, is remembered as one of the essential examples of bonds with Native Americans and European colonists.

About a year later, taking place in November, 1621, a traditional and joyful dinner was carried out due to the proposal of this celebration from Governor William Bradford. He invited the allies of this specific colony, a helpful Native American tribe, honorably including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. As a general explanation, they dedicated this time to celebrate the colonists’ first successful corn harvest. According to the authentic journal of a pilgrim chronicler named Edward Winslow, the meal mainly consisted of five deer, previously slaughtered by four men who went on a “fowling” quest.

Later, within the following couple of years, the popularity within this holiday grew in the local civilizations. Therefore, the sitting presidents of this/these decade(s) provided efforts into taking action towards marking a special day for either Thanksgiving, or, as a polar opposite, religious fasting, which were equivalently commonplace. First, the Continental Congress proclaimed that there would be a maximum of two days each year of giving thanks, only to later be modified by George Washington in 1789, designating Thanksgiving as paying gratitude to the country’s independence and accomplishing the ratification of the Constitution. James Madison along with John Adams agreed while serving their presidential terms. In 1817, New York was the first state that accepted this law into their government. Throughout the subsequent times, people gradually respected this tradition, becoming more popular each year; until eventually, Thanksgiving became a nationally official holiday.

Although they did not have the same food, cooking utensils available, and other traditional events or symbolic items, these settlers within the New World truly appreciated giving thanks, just like we all should. After all, the majority of us carry out much easier lives than these pilgrims suffered through on a daily basis.



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How Did Thanksgiving Come About?