By Ángela Padrón
Thanksgiving is a traditional holiday celebrated in the United States. It falls on the fourth Thursday in November each year. The holiday dates back to 1621, when the Pilgrims shared a harvest feast with a tribe of Wampanoag Indians. In 1620, a group of separatists from Plymouth, England traveled on a ship called The Mayflower to find land in the New World where they could practice their faith freely and own their own land. They landed in the area of today’s Massachusetts and called their home Plymouth Rock.
The winters proved to be brutally cold. Many of the colonists were exposed to disease. Only half of the original passengers survived the first spring. Some Native Americans, including the famous Squanto, befriended the Pilgrims. They taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate corn, extract maple sap from trees, catch fish, and identify poisonous plants. In November of 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first harvest was successful, Governor William Bradford organized a three-day festival and feast and invited the Native Americans to join them. This became known as the “First Thanksgiving.”
For decades, individual colonies and states celebrated their own version of thanksgiving. In 1789, George Washington declared a national day of thanks to designate the end of war and the beginning of the country’s independence. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that Thanksgiving would be a national holiday celebrated each November, while in 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill designating Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday in November.
Historians differ on the actual accounts of the feast. However, most people in the United States celebrate the holiday, despite any controversy and no matter their religion. While there was probably not a roasted turkey at the first feast, today eating a turkey is common practice. This is accompanied by foods such as stuffing, corn, cranberries, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Millions of people also tune in to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and plan to begin holiday shopping on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. The President also follows a more recent tradition of pardoning two turkeys, which spares their lives and allows them to live the rest of the days on a farm. No matter how the holiday is celebrated, Thanksgiving has been and will continue to be a time for friends and family to come together and give thanks for the many great things in their lives.