The Origins of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is an interesting holiday, which many people don’t fully understand. In this short post I am going to be unpacking the interesting holiday, and hopefully telling you a few things you didn’t know!

Unlike what a textbook might say, Thanksgiving originated not in one event, but was a tradition that grew from basic harvest festivals – essentially celebrating the incoming harvest and surplus of food. These harvest festivals were often placed in Autumn because that was the only time in which they had enough food to celebrate – people scraped the barrel year-round. Thanksgiving includes many foods that could be harvested – wheat, potatoes, cranberries, even livestock like turkeys.

So what is specific to Thanksgiving? Well, the thanks. Thanksgiving is essentially thanking your god, deity, or even just nature for giving you the food you have. And no, my fellow Americans, it is not only American – it is celebrated in different forms throughout the Americas, and also in Germany for some reason. But what is the origin of American Thanksgiving? After all, it is different…

“American” Thanksgiving began in 1621 with the arrival of a group of Pilgrims to the Americas. To them it was largely a religious holiday (thanking God for letting them survive the journey from Europe to America), though they did celebrate it with a local Native American tribe, the Wampanoags.

“The First Thanksgiving” by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe
Source: Wikipedia

The Wampanoags taught them about local species and showed them how to plant corn over the winter in return for an alliance and defense against a rival tribe, the Narraganset. The Pilgrims also helped Nurse the chief back to life after he got a disease probably brought by them or French traders.

Like every other holiday, Thanksgiving has changed over time. Though we may depict Pilgrims eating our food, they probably ate a wildly different meal. Other nations that celebrate it do so on a different date because crops are harvested at a different time. In Canada, crops are harvested in early October because cold weather comes earlier.

In essence, despite some people’s dislike of it because of it’s promotion of excess eating, I enjoy Thanksgiving as a simple holiday without stress where you get to eat good food and connect with family.

Anyways, I’m off to eat some Pecan Pie….. Happy Thanksgiving!

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