Next week, on November 27th, Thanksgiving will be upon us! When we think of this holiday celebrated by millions of Americans every year on the last Thursday of November, we think of nothing but food and football (American football, that is). It’s a wonderful celebration when families gather to feast on turkey and other foods, and relax and enjoy each other’s company. But where did this tradition come from?
In 1620, a group of 102 people who are now known as the Pilgrims sailed from Plymouth, England to a place near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where they longed to enjoy religious freedom and land ownership in the New World. Only about half of the Pilgrims survived the first winter. The following year, a Native American named Squanto taught them how to cultivate corn, catch fish, avoid poisonous plants, and extract sap from trees. He also helped establish a peaceful friendship between the settlers and the local Native American tribe, known as the Wampanoag.
The first successful harvest came in November 1621, and the governor of Massachusetts organized a celebratory feast, inviting the Wampanoag tribe to break bread with the settlers. This is now considered America’s first Thanksgiving. Although many Thanksgivings were celebrated for various reasons in the following years, it didn’t become an annual tradition until more than two hundred years later, when President Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday in 1863.
Enough history! Let’s talk about the best part of Thanksgiving, the food. The traditional Thanksgiving dinner consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie for dessert. Stuffing is made with cut-up bread, celery, onion and various spices prepared in a slow cooker. Gravy is a sauce made from the juices that drip naturally when cooking meat, and can be thickened by adding flour or cornstarch.
Parades are also a traditional part of Thanksgiving. The most famous parade takes place in New York City and is hosted by the department store Macy’s (it’s officially known as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and was first put on in 1924). Floats, performances and giant balloons in the shape of famous cartoon characters trace a 2.5-mile route through the city. Philadelphia is home to the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade, with its inaugural parade taking place in 1920.
Hopefully this inspires some readers to join in on the fun and festivities! Happy Turkey Day!