History of Thanksgiving
The Thanksgiving holiday originally was held as a way to celebrate fruitful autumn harvests and to appease ancient gods. Prior to the establishment of formal religion, ancient farmers believed that their crops contained spirits that caused crops to grow, and to die. Many farmers believed these spirits would be released once the crops were harvested, so they had to be destroyed, less the gods took revenge on the farmers who harvested them. These harvest festivals were held by ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians as a celebration of the defeat of these spirits.
- The Greeks honored the goddess of grains, Demeter, by holding a festival every autumn called Thesmosphoria. The festival lasted three days and included several traditions including a day of fasting followed by a day of feasting during which gifts of corn, cakes, fruit and pigs were offered to Demeter in the hopes that she would grant them a good harvest.
- The Romans celebrated a harvest festival that honored Ceres, the goddess of grains; the festival was called Cerelia and the first fruits of the harvest were presented as offering and gifts to Ceres. The annual festival and included music, parades, games, sports, and a thanksgiving feast.
- The ancient Egyptians celebrated a springtime festival, as their harvest season occurred during the spring. The celebrations were held in honor of Min, their god of vegetation and fertility. The festival was quite lively and including feasting on a bounty of food, as well as a parade, music, dancing, and sports.
The history of the American Thanksgiving is steeped in much folklore and legend. It is widely believed that the first Thanksgiving took place in 1621, which is documented in a letter written by Edward Winslow, an American Pilgrim leader who served as governor of Plymouth Colony in the early years. In his letter, Winslow describes a prosperous harvest year of corn, barley, and peas. He goes on to describe men sent to gather fowl, so they might “rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors” and then “at which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us…. with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted…”
Although there are not accurate accounts to support that this day of feasting and Thanksgiving was celebrated every year after the original “Thanksgiving”, we know that there were typically days of thanksgiving celebrated throughout the colonies after the fall harvests.
By the mid 1800s, many states celebrated and observed a Thanksgiving holiday. By 1789, George Washington proclaimed a National Thanksgiving Day to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November, but not every president who Washington decreed that a specific day be honored as a holiday of thanks. It wasn’t until 1863, when President Lincoln, at the urging of a magazine editor from Boston, Sarah Jsoepha Hale, proclaimed the last Thursday in November as the national day of Thanksgiving. Following that, every president declared a day of Thanksgiving each year, although the actual day of observance was changed throughout the years, many times to lengthen the Christmas shopping season. This tended to cause controversy, so finally in 1941, through a joint resolution in Congress, the fourth Thursday of November was declared a legal holiday, and this date of observance has stood since then.
Did you know? Thanksgiving Facts and Trivia
- Benjamin Franklin wanted the national bird of the United States to be the turkey, but was opposed by Thomas Jefferson. It is believed that Franklin then named the male turkey “tom” to spite Jefferson.
- The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade tradition began in the 1920s by first-generation immigrants employed by Macy’s. The Parade was a celebration of the seasons rooted in the traditional festivals of their homelands.
- Frozen, fully stuffed turkeys, ready to cook, were introduced in 1955
- Californians are the largest consumers of turkey in the United States
- Only 50% of the Pilgrims that sailed on the Mayflower survived to celebrate the first Thanksgiving held in 1621
- A turkey can see a full 270 degrees with its eyes – gives new meaning to having “eyes behind the head”!
- When Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin went to the moon, they took roasted turkey and all the trimmings with them
- When the Air Force was conducting tests runs and breaking the sound barrier, fields of turkeys would drop dead, proving that turkeys can have heart attacks
This Thanksgiving, what if you are not the one hosting the dinner, but rather attending a Thanksgiving feast? Although you are not obligated to bring a gift to your host, it is the holiday for which we give thanks, so brining a small gesture of your appreciation would certainly be considerate. We have compiled thoughtful (and useful) gift ideas to help you select a gift to present to your hosts.
- Thanksgiving Flower Arrangements
- using a keepsake container to display the flowers means it can be enjoyed for years to come
- Holiday Cd’s
- Thanksgiving movies – we suggest:
- “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”
- “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”
- “Pieces of April”
- “The New World”
- “Hannah and her sisters”
- Bottle of wine
- Although bringing just one bottle is plenty, it might be more practical to bring a bottle of both red and white, to ensure that everyone’s tastes buds are satisfied, and you have a bottle that can be paired with all the food at the table. http://wine.about.com/od/holidayswithwine/a/thanksgivingwin.htm
- Fruit baskets
- Thanksgiving cookbooks
- Thanksgiving storybooks
- Perfect for hosts with small children in the family
- Candles and Candle holders
- Thanksgiving puzzles or games
- a great way to spend time together after your Thanksgiving meal)
Thanksgiving decorations add a creative touch and festive atmosphere to a holiday that already conjures ideas of family, friends, delicious food, and fun. Many people take advantage of this lively and social day of thanks by decorating their homes, inside and out, for the holiday season.
As you prepare for this Thanksgiving holiday, remember that the Thanksgiving table takes center stage, so you want to make it as impressive as possible. Now is the time to polish and showcase those silver candle holders, use the china gravy boat that has been in the family for generations, and to use the heirloom china! Adorning the table with seasonal decorations will only add to its beauty and décor. You can use a tablecloth or runner in autumn themed prints or rich, dark hues of reds, oranges, yellows and brown to bring out the natural colors of Fall. Accenting the tablecloth or runner with matching napkins and sparkling silverware will make it a sight to behold!
A centerpiece will add an attractive focus to the table - consider using a cornucopia centerpiece, traditionally filled with a variety of fresh fruits or autumn flowers like gerbera daisies, gladiolas, roses, and sunflowers. You could also make a centerpiece of dried fruits, pine cones, and greens to complete the Thanksgiving theme, or scatter fall leaves, wheat sprigs, clusters of berries and nuts in the center of the table for a more earthy and natural look. Another unique centerpiece idea is to hollow out a pumpkin, always abundant at this time of year, and fill that with fruits or fresh flowers.
Decorating more than just the dining table will add charm to your home and showcase your creative side this Thanksgiving. Mother Nature provides an abundance of inexpensive and inspiring array of (xxx) that you can use to beautify your home this holiday. Make a garland for your fireplace mantle of dried leaves, gourds and mini pumpkins, and pine cones, or you can drape the garland around the entrance to your home, or main doorways throughout the main living area. If you use candles in your home, consider purchasing seasonal colored and scented candles, and using berries or acorns around the base of the candle for an attractive, finishing touch. You can also display mini pumpkins as adornments to your staircase – place the pumpkins on alternating steps to create a festive look.
Mum plants are widely available this time of year, and come in an assortment of seasonal colors. Consider displaying mums potted in a wheelbarrow in your yard, placing them around the base of your mailbox, or even use them to create an eye catching look for your front steps. Remember, mums are hearty plants and can be replanted outside in your garden as the season comes to a close.
Decorating your home for the holiday season is a great way to make your home ready for Thanksgiving. Involve the whole family, and you can make this holiday that is all about family and togetherness, even more so this year.