Happy Monday! It’s time for Did You Know.
Last week we talked about Thanksgiving turkey, and I left you with the phrase “what we call the first Thanksgiving feast” and mentioned it has very little to do with the first Thanksgiving holiday. Let’s look at that today.
Many people in the US believe that the current Thanksgiving holiday is modeled on a 1621 harvest feast shared by the English colonists of Plymouth and the Wampanoag people, which was a 3-day celebration. The truth is the colonists regularly celebrated different days of thanksgiving, as did many cultures throughout the world at the time. The harvest feast was one of many thanksgiving celebrations in many European cultures.
But did you know the Thanksgiving holiday we celebrate today was originally a political holiday not associated with the feast of 1621?
The Thanksgiving holiday we have today finally came to be in 1942 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a proclamation designating the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. Most importantly, that came as the end of a long political process and debate that started in the 1700s. The whole process was, in fact, the government forcing the practice of celebrating Thanksgiving onto the populace in an effort to create unity. The US Thanksgiving holiday has traditionally been as political as celebratory and originally had no connection to the harvest feast of 1621, which obviously did not take place in November. The association with that day was added to symbolize unity, despite the fact the English settlers later went to war with the Wampanoag people.
The Thanksgiving holiday, like so many modern holidays, bloomed from cultural heritages. These cultures practiced celebrations of thanks for food, rain, and other bounties. It is not about the feast of 1621. Your traditions for Thanksgiving, old or new, are what Thanksgiving should be.