History Behind Thanksgiving
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Politics and Activism

History Behind Thanksgiving

The true story about America's Thanksgiving

History Behind Thanksgiving

The myth of the first Thanksgiving, taught to children in this country, happened a lot differently than you might think.

The story taught to children is that the pilgrims that sailed from England almost didn't survive the winter, until the neighboring Native Americans (Squanto and Wampanoag) helped them learn how to grow corn. As a celebration of surviving their first winter, the pilgrims kept tradition for feasting by hunting for foul (probably a turkey, hence their significance), striving to have the best and most luxurious bird. The Natives were alarmed by the shooting games that were played during the pre-feast (Like how today the super bowl is watched after the meal). Instead of inviting the Native Americans, as we’re often taught, Native Americans came numbered and armed to investigate the shootings. Both sides lowered their weapons peacefully, and took part in a meal, providing 5 deer to make up for the unexpected amount of guest. According to a letter Edward Winslow wrote, this meal of 1621 at Plymouth Rock was a one-time event.

Considering this feasting tradition has been taking place a century before the pilgrims even fled because of religious persecution, European Christians after service recognized Gods mercies and feasted during the harvest season.

Thanksgiving wasn't recognized as a legal National holiday until 1941.To relate this Holiday to American tradition and as a form of "being American," we have to acknowledge that Sarah Josepha Hale made it her sole mission to make thanksgiving a nationally recognized event.

Sarah wanted to bring the north and south together as one by writing governors, officials and anyone of authority to unite in a feast of thanks. Of course, the civil war was making her goal hard considering that the north didn't recognize her plea, and the south saw this “Yankee holiday” as a form of distraction from the war. George Washington inspired her to choose the last Thursday of November as the set date for the holiday because he was the first president to acknowledge a meal of thanks, and he set the date for November 26th. Choosing Thursday also fell in line after the sermon that local ministers gave. Abraham Lincoln wanted to do something to unite people because of the war and declared Thanksgiving as a day of gratitude.

Even with this day being acknowledge nationally all across America (as the New English settlers moved west with the tradition), every president after Abe had to declare the day because it was yet to be considered a national holiday. 76 years later, as an attempt to better the economy because of the great depression, Franklin Roosevelt wanted to move the date of thanksgiving to make more room for Christmas shopping. This event angered people because there was two days as thanksgiving and caused a heavier toll on America's economy; that congress had to clean up "Franksgiving" and officially declared the last Thursday of November as the holiday Thanksgiving.

This is the history behind our three day holiday, and I am thankful that Sarah worked so hard to get students everywhere 3 days off of school!

Now thanksgiving is overlooked and is mostly looked forward to doing Black Friday shopping, and getting ready for Christmas. Still, it is a warm idea that this is another holiday in which people take the time to sit down with each other after a long day of cooking and be in each others presence to be united and grateful.

Link to the History Channels documentary on Thanksgiving:


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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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