The History of Thanksgiving

The History of Thanksgiving 🙂

By: Denise Miller


Thanksgiving is one of our favorite times of the year. It heralds the Holiday Season for most of us, the unofficial beginning of the shopping for Christmas or Hanukkah.

It is a time for family gatherings, lots of food and good will!

But how much do you know about the origins of Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving originated as a harvest festival and in 1863, President Lincoln declared the fourth Thursday in November “Thanksgiving Day”. Since he did not specifically establish it as a national holiday each state had the right to decide what day they would celebrate it. In 1941 Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Thanksgiving an official national holiday.

Many people believe that the holiday started with the pilgrims and Native Americans in the 1600’s. Research has found that the colonists did share a feast with the Native Americans, but it is assumed that they did so because of the help the natives gave them in growing crops and surviving the winter. It is believed that they did not make this a yearly event. The feast had origins in history as a traditional English harvest
turkey celebration.

History has shown that for thousands of years, many cultures have set aside a feast to celebrate the fall harvest. They would give thanks for the plentiful crops and would hold this festival for up to nine days. The date and customs are different, yet the same theme holds in every festival.

The original colonist harvest did not have the same food we have. Historians say there was wild fowl (turkey?) and seafood served with seasonal vegetables. There were no sweet desserts because of a limited or non-existent supply of sugar and without ovens; there were no breads, cakes or pies.

The first celebration did not have the name “Thanksgiving” because that term was reserved for a specific religious holiday of giving thanks to God.

While we think of Thanksgiving as an American holiday, it is actually celebrated in many countries and cultures around the world. In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated in October. In Great Britain it is held in late September or early October, with special services in churches that include decorations of flowers and food. The Jewish celebrate “Sukkot”, a festival of thanksgiving that lasts nine days. The families build a small outdoor booth; decorate it with leaves, branches, fruits and vegetables with an open roof. Tables are set up inside and the family members can hold meals and pray. The Chinese have a “Festival of the Autumn Moon”, or “Zhong Qui” held on the eighth month of the Chinese calendar. The Moon Goddess is honored with moon cakes and the children parade with colored lanterns in the evening. In southern India, people hold the harvest festival of “Onam”. Food is given to those in need and homes are decorated with flowers. The event holds a fireworks display. In Lithuania, there is a thanksgiving tradition of creating a ‘boba”, meaning old woman, from the last sheaf of grain at harvest time. This is fashioned into a doll shape and decorated with flowers and ribbons. It is believed that keeping the boba until spring will keep the spirit of the crop alive until replanting in the spring.

“We are thankful for YOU this Thanksgiving and pray that you and your family will be blessed!
– Publisher