Thanksgiving’s Origins: Here’s How the American Tradition Began
The Google Doodle for today, November 25, honors Thanksgiving, which falls on the fourth Thursday of November every year.
The animated picture depicts some of the traditional Thanksgiving fare, including potatoes, yams, pumpkin pie, corn, and cranberry sauce, all “marching to the beat.”
Families and friends frequently gather for a supper and other social activities on this much-loved holiday.
But when did this time-honored American ritual begin, and how did it begin? The Washington Newsday outlines the situation.
Thanksgiving customs can be traced back to harvest festivals, which were held by the Pilgrims from England and the Native Americans they encountered to express gratitude for a plentiful harvest.
The first American Thanksgiving was a three-day harvest festival celebrated in Plymouth Colony (which is now part of Massachusetts) in 1621.
“By looking at the first Thanksgiving feast from the perspective of its Native participants, it is easy to grasp how essential the concept of giving gratitude is to Native world views,” the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) notes.
In 1620, the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth, but they didn’t bring enough food. Because it was too late in the year to produce food, half of the colony died during the winter of 1620-1621.
The nearby Wampanoag Indians taught the colonists how to cultivate maize and other vegetables in the spring of 1621, and they also showed them how to cook corn, cranberries, and squash. They were also instructed on how to hunt and fish.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAI) explains: “The Wampanoag already had a thorough grasp of their surroundings when the English decided to establish a colony there in the 1600s. They had a reciprocal relationship with the rest of the world.
The museum claims that “as successful hunters, farmers, and fishermen who shared their foods and techniques, they assisted the colonists in surviving in a strange new environment.”
The First Thanksgiving in the United States
To celebrate the season’s great harvest, the Pilgrims and surrounding Wampanoag Indians assembled in the fall of 1621 for a feast of wild turkeys, duck, geese, fish and shellfish, corn, green vegetables, and dried fruits. Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag tribe brought venison.
According to the NMAI: “The first Thanksgiving was only the beginning of a long history of American Indian-white contacts. This is a condensed version of the information.