People gather around a table with family and friends to share a holiday feast. They give thanks for the blessings of the past year. For Americans and Canadians alike, these activities are an important part of Thanksgiving Day celebrations.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we also pay tribute to the Pilgrims and Native Americans who shared the first Thanksgiving feast nearly 400 years ago.
WHEN IS THANKSGIVING?
People in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday in November. In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October.
WHERE DOES THANKSGIVING COME FROM?
Since ancient times, people have celebrated the autumn harvest. They marked the plentiful harvest with feasts, dances, and prayers of thanks. If the harvest was disappointing, the celebrations might be cancelled.
The English Puritans, who settled in America in the early 1600s, also shaped Thanksgiving celebrations. Puritan communities were very religious. From time to time, they devoted special days to give thanks in prayer.
THE FIRST THANKSGIVING IN AMERICA
In 1620, the Pilgrims founded the Plymouth Colony (in Massachusetts). The Pilgrims, a group of English Puritans, faced a difficult first winter. Many died of starvation. The following spring, Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to raise corn and harvest local seafood. In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims harvested their first crops.
The Pilgrims decided to celebrate the harvest and give thanks to God with a feast. They invited Wampanoag chief Massasoit and about 90 of his men to attend. The Native Americans brought five deer to the feast.
The feasting lasted three days. Pilgrims and Native Americans dined on roasted venison (deer meat), wild turkeys, geese, ducks, lobsters, clams, and eels. They ate boiled pumpkin, cornbread, wild plums, carrots, and turnips.
TRADITIONAL THANKSGIVING FOODS
Traditional Thanksgiving foods include turkey with bread stuffing, mashed potatoes,...