Americans celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November each year. This national holiday is celebrated to commemorate the first Thanksgiving of the nation’s early settlers and their first harvest feast. Here’s a brief overview of the holiday’s history that you can pass on to the young ones.
The Native Americans and the Settlers
The area surrounding the site where the settlers first landed is now known as eastern Rhode Island and southeastern Massachussets. This area used to be home of the Wampanoag tribes for more than 12,000 years. Before the settlers aboard the Mayflower came, they had been visited by other European settlers.
When the settlers came, comprising of 101 men, women and children, they gathered anything they could find in the area to prepare for winter. After 66 days in the Atlantic Ocean, they intended to land in what today is New York. However, due to windy conditions, they decided to settle on what is now Cape Cod.
This settlers are orginally a group of English Protestants who wanted to separate from the main England church. They were often referred to as the separatists. They originally moved to Holland and after a dozen years of lack and money problems, they decided to sail into the “New World’ through financial aid by English merchants.
Samoset, the leader of the natives and Squanto who knew English paid the settlers a visit and a formal arrangement was made that they will protect each other. This happened on March 1621. One day during that fall, the natives heard gunshots and thought that the Englishmen are waging war against them. When all 90 natives rushed in to the settlement, they found out that they were only hunting to celebrate harvest. When the tribe leader knew of this, he ordered his men to hunt for deer and join the feast, too. For three days, the settlers and the English joined together in the merrymaking. Thus, the first Thanksgiving feast occurred. Apart from the food, they sang, danced and played games.
The 1621 gathering offered thanks and prayers for the bountiful harvest. However, the first recorded religious Thanksgiving day happened in 1623. That year, the settlers gave thanks after a two-month drought.
It is interesting to note that the first Thanksgiving meal consisted of deer, roasted meat, shellfish and corn. Much of what is served today during Thanksgiving was not served during the first Thanksgiving feast.
As potrayed today, the early settlers did not wear black clothing or anything resembling somber. They did not have silver shoe buckles as well. The truth is, they wore cheerful and bright looking clothes. On the other hand, the native Americans are portrayed as wearing feathered headdresses and large, woven blankets on their shoulders. This is not entirely true though.
Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of the Godley’s Lady Book magazine, campaigned for an annual nationwide Thanksgiving holiday in 1846. She proposed that the celebration will be patterned after the first 1621 gathering.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared two annual Thanksgiving holidays, one in August to remember the Battle of Gettysburg while the other in November to express gratitude for the coutnry’s “general blessings”.
Thanksgiving for Children
When telling the story of Thanksgiving, it is best to teach young ones the value of gratitude, too. Thankfulness means to be extra aware of the blessings and not the disappointments. The idea of giving thanks every day should also be relayed. Children should be taught not to focus on big things alone such as wealth, health and happiness. Gratefulness should also be expressed for their warm pajamas, ripe bananas and sunshine.
Contributed by Kai / Photo source