The Origin of Thanksgiving dates back hundreds of years. It is commonly believed that the origin of Thanksgiving dates to the fall of 1621. After a brutal first winter in North America, the settlers at Plymouth had a successful harvest with the help of the Wampanoag tribe. To celebrate this, the colonists held a three-day feast. The holiday wasn’t officially established until the Civil War was in full swing, but it has been evolving for hundreds of years.
The first winter the colonists faced in Plymouth was brutal. Only half of the 60 crew of the Mayflower survived. When spring emerged, the colonists were greeted by members of the Wampanoag tribe, who taught them farming skills. Following a successful first harvest, the colonists celebrated in November 1621 to mark the event. Over three days, the colonists and the Wampanoag feasted on venison, corn, and wildfowl. There was no honey pumpkin pie or cranberry relish in sight! Cranberries weren’t even mentioned until at least 50 years after this first feast. Pies and other sweets, like the now-famous Thanksgiving pecan pie, were also slow to come around, thanks to a lack of sugar. Maybe the colonists could have benefitted from honey in their kitchens.
Sadly, this first feast was one of the only shows of friendship between the native tribes and the colonists in the colonies’ early days. As Europeans colonized the Americas, millions of natives were exiled or killed in conflicts. It is important to remember this, as the traditional story of Thanksgiving often leaves out these events.
The modern Thanksgiving
It wasn’t until the Civil War that Thanksgiving was established as a national holiday in the United States. President Lincoln established the day of thanks in 1863 to memorialize those lost in the war. From this, the holiday became a day of feasting and celebrating family. Today, we gather around tables filled with food and spend time with family to show gratitude for everything we have.