Thanksgiving Day is a harvest festival where people thank the harvest and express gratitude in general. Mainly celebrated in Canada and the United States off late it has been considered as a secular holiday.
These were days reserved to thank God for plentiful crops and a bountiful harvest. Accordingly, this holiday still takes place late in the Fall Season, after crops have been gathered.
The first observance of Thanksgiving in America was entirely religious in nature and involved no form of feasting.
On December 4, 1619, a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Plantation on the James River…a location now known as Charles City, Virginia. The charter of the group required that the day of arrival be observed as a Day of Thanksgiving to God.
The festival lasted three days. Massasoit, local sachem or chief of the Wampanoag, together with 90 Indians from the various Eastern Woodlands Tribes, participated in the ceremony. There can be little doubt that the majority of the feast was most likely furnished by the indigenous population. It is certain that they provided venison. The remainder of the meal, eaten outdoors around large tables, also probably included fish, berries, boiled pumpkin, watercress, leeks, lobster, dried fruit, clams, wild plums and cornbread.
During the ancient times the farmers used to believe that the crops that they harvest contain spirits. And they get released when the crops are harvested which might come as a threat to the farmers. To destroy these spirits the farmers used to celebrate these harvest festivals.
History has lot of controversies about the time when Thanksgiving started. However, the first traditional Thanksgiving was revered at Plymouth Plantation in the year 1621. Today, it is celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November and the second Monday in October in Canada.
Another account tells that it all started with the arrival of the Pilgrims, the fortune hunters for the “New World” from Plymouth, England in 1620. They were sailing on small boat named “Mayflower” which was over crowded with passengers with two separate schools of thoughts. One was ‘Saints’ and the other was ‘Strangers’. When they sighted a land after 66 days of deadly voyage in November, they all descended and came to a peace treaty that all the people will be treated equally irrespective of their groups and elected John Carver as their first governor.
The Pilgrims decided to settle in Plymouth which offered a good harbor, resources for cultivation with less aggressive Indians. Unfortunately they were unable to cope up with the winter and were desolated badly. However, the local Indians helped them to learn the tricks of harvesting during the winter season and the ways they can sustain their families during such times of needs. With their help, the Pilgrims in the following winter harvested enough crops and they celebrated the event with eclat, grand feast and merrymaking where they even invited the generous and friendly Indians.
The event, however, was a one-time celebration. It was not repeated the following year, nor was it intended to be an annual festival. It was not until 55 years later than another Thanksgiving Day was officially proclaimed, when the Governing Council of Charlestown, Massachusetts convened on June 20, 1676 to weigh how to best express thanks for the good fortune that had secured the establishment of their community. By unanimous vote, Edward Rawson (the Clerk of the Council) was instructed to announce June 29 as a Day of Thanksgiving. Yet again, this proved to be only a one-time event.
Regrettably, the third year proved to be a year of bad luck as the corn that they harvested got damaged. Then Governor William Bradford ordered a day of fasting and prayers for the Pilgrims which resulted in heavy rainfall. To celebrate – November 29th of that year was proclaimed as a day of thanksgiving with another feast and merriment. This date is believed to be the real beginning of the present Thanksgiving Day. The present day of Thanksgiving was initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 later in 1941 the Congress approved it.
Today the celebrattions from the first observance of Thanksgiving has come a long way. Most recently, Thanksgiving Day in the United States is usually a family affair, complete with sumptuous dinners and happy reunions; however, it is also traditionally a time for serious religious contemplation, church services and prayer.
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