Heejae Park/ OCSA 11th
Thanksgiving currently stands as a national holiday in the United States. To many, it is known as a time to interact and eat with others in celebration of the autumn harvest feast. However, as every other holiday has, Thanksgiving has history. This is made even more interesting as Thanksgiving is known for being a US holiday.
This raises curiosity; traditions and beliefs often change throughout time, with Thanksgiving having several centuries to experience change. This notion is widely acknowledged by many people. Grace Baek, a student in Orange County, believes that Thanksgiving simply changed in that it is now less celebrated. “I feel like now, in the US, there are a lot of different cultures. Back then, everyone was a part of one community, and one culture. Now, it’s not exactly like that,” Grace said.
The origins of Thanksgiving stems from the 17th century, on land that would, in time, become the United States of America. As Plymouth colonists arrived on the Americas, they shared a feast with the native Wampanoag Indians on November 22nd, 1621. This is seen as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.
This followed the Americas’ brutal introduction to the colonists, who were malnourished and diseased upon their arrival to the continent. The colonists were then aided by the Patuxet tribe, which taught them how to cultivate land and make use of the surrounding nature.
This allowed colonists to build an alliance with the local Wampanoag tribe, which would then remain one of the sole cases of cooperation between European colonists and Native Americans. This prompted the colonists’ governor, William Bradford, to organize a celebratory feast between the two groups.
Following this feast, Thanksgiving celebrations had become a common annual practice. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated a few days towards Thanksgiving celebrations.
Finally, in 1789, George Washington made the first proclamation for Thanksgiving by the national government of the US, calling for Americans to express gratitude for the conclusion to their war for independence. This was also upheld by succeeding presidents, such as John Adams and James Madison.
In 1817, New York had become the first of several states to officially adopt Thanksgiving as an annual holiday. However, the South was largely unknown to the holiday. Eventually, in 1863, during the heat of the Civil War, president Abraham Lincoln finally deemed Thanksgiving to be a national holiday, scheduling it for the final Thursday of November.
This followed 36 years of letters sent to politicians by Sarah Josepha Hale, author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” campaigning for Thanksgiving’s establishment as a national holiday.
This remained the tradition since then until Franklin D. Roosevelt’s attempt to move the day of the tradition up a week on 1939 to increase retail sales during the Great Depression. However, due to large opposition, a bill was signed in 1941 to move Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday in November.
Thanksgiving took time to finally establishment its foothold in American tradition, and has room to potentially evolve even further. Travis Mewhirter, in Orange County, believes that history can change tradition. “I feel like anything that’s rooted in history always skewed this way and that,” Travis said. Additionally, he also believes that Thanksgiving has room to change, even becoming a global tradition. “I’ve met people from all over the world, and they all have their own versions of Thanksgiving. It may not be the exact same as Thanksgiving, but with how globalized our world is, I think Americans living abroad will share their customs and holidays would spread around more.”
<Heejae Park/ OCSA 11th