By: Guadalupe Hernandez
Thanksgiving is a holiday that comes on the fourth Thursday of November, which this year is on the 22nd. Interestingly enough, it comes on the second Monday of October in Canada. It is based on the colonial Pilgrims’ 1621 harvest meal. This holiday continues to be a day for people to gather for feasting and be together as a family.
Plymouth’s Thanksgiving began with few colonists going hunting for turkeys. Next, a group of 90 or more Wampanoag (Native American group that formerly lived on what is now Rhode Island) made an appearance at the entrance of the settlement’s gate, unnerving the 50 colonists. Over the next few days, the two groups of people socialized without having any incidents. The Wampanoag contributed by bringing hunted animal meat to the feast, which included fowl (a bird). Since Plymouth had few resources, most of the people ate outside while sitting on the floor or on barrels with plates on their laps. The Wampanoag and the colonists, fired guns, raced, and drank liquor, while struggling to communicate since the Wampanoag did not speak English. This was a disorderly affair that sealed a treaty between these two groups that lasted to King Philip’s War, during which hundreds of colonists and thousands of Native Americans lost their lives.
The colonists became used to celebrating Thanksgiving days by thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of drought. The U.S Continental Congress announced publicly a national Thanksgiving upon the enactment (the process of passing legislation) of the constitution.
Thanksgiving did not become a holiday until the mid 19th century, when Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of the popular magazine “Godey’s Lady’s Book”, campaigned for a national Thanksgiving Day to promote unity between people and family. Eventually, she gained the support from President Abraham Lincoln. On October 3, 1863, during the Civil War, Lincoln announced a national day for Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the 26 of November.
This holiday was proclaimed every year by every president thereafter, and the date chosen was the last Thursday of November. As the country became more urban and family members began to live farther apart, Thanksgiving has become a holiday to gather together and give thanks. The holiday moved away from its religious roots to allow immigrants from any background to participate in this common tradition.