Thanksgiving. The day in which the majority of America gathers around their dining room tables to share a plentiful feast turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and other fares that have become associated with the early pilgrims. Today, Thanksgiving is a family affair, with family members often coming from far places to dine together. Often families choose to spend time watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade or a football game, which have become popular Thanksgiving day activities. However, what are we really celebrating when we celebrate Thanksgiving?
Historically, the word ‘Thanksgiving’ among 17th-century pilgrims actually was defined as a period of prayerful fasting. New England colonists celebrated “Thanksgivings” to thank God for military victories or the end of droughts.
That being said, the first “Thanksgiving feast” that one might think of as more of a feast was celebrated in 1621 between English colonists and the Wampanoag tribe. Contrary to popular belief, this meal was driven more by trade and necessity and was seen as more of a fall harvest than a declaration of peace that we think of now. Another piece of history that history books tend to neglect is that the peace between these groups only lasted 50 years- until King Philip’s War, in which hundreds of colonists and thousands of Native Americans died.
As time went on and the colonies became the United States, Congress proclaimed a national Thanksgiving holiday during the Civil War as a means of promoting national unity. Each president since then has followed suit in honoring Thanksgiving.
This brings us to the modern day Thanksgiving: the holiday of unity. Often we regard the first Thanksgiving between the pilgrims and Native Americans as evidence of this unity, yet it is important to realize the. Perhaps recognizing the true historical significance of Thanksgiving rather than feeding into the hallmark story that glosses over some of the details will allow us to more appreciative of all that we have. What’s more, we may appreciate how lucky we are to be surrounded by those that we care for.