The Revelation

The Evolution of Thanksgiving

Elizabeth Panter, Opinion Editor

The fourth Thursday of November, you sit side-by-side with your loved ones. The dining table is covered with glistening platters of delicious family dishes and you pass the bread rolls in the midst of family cheer and laughter. Thanksgiving wasn’t always like this, though. Throughout the centuries, Thanksgiving has gone through a whirlwind of evolution.

“Of course though, the popular story of Thanksgiving, we even see it in the Peanuts comic strip, ever year CBS or ABC shows the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” History Teacher Jim Foley said. “[T]hat’s based on the story of the Pilgrims celebrating their first successful harvest in Plymouth. And so that in some ways, is the traditional origins of Thanksgiving.”

Pilgrims and Native Americans feasting happily and equally is a major delusion of Thanksgiving.

“Possibly the most common misconception is that the Pilgrims extended an invitation to the Native Americans for helping them reap the harvest,” Maya Salam said in her New York Times article. “The truth of how they all ended up feasting together is unknown.”

Squanto, or less commonly known as Tisquantum, assisted the Pilgrims, Salam states. He acted as a translator due to knowing the English language because the English sold him into Spanish slavery in 1614. He met the Pilgrims a few years after escaping. He also helped the Pilgrims with crops and harvest. Squanto may be one of the reasons the Pilgrims survived and had a bountiful crop. Despite Squanto’s help, historians are not sure that Native Americans were initially invited to the feast.

While the fallacy of Native Americans dining with the Pilgrims is widely known, many people do not know the later evolution. According to National Archives, after Congress pressed him, “President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789 as a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin” – the first time Thanksgiving was celebrated under the new Constitutions.” However, Thanksgiving was not popularized and celebrated commonly until the Civil War.

“The more recent origins of Thanking really are two-fold,” Dr. Foley said. “[D]uring the Civil War in November of 1863, president Abraham Lincoln gave his Gettysburg address […] and that really helped shaped the idea of the national Thanksgiving for the service of these men who had perished defending the union. And so that’s really where we start to see the modern idea of Thanksgiving beginning.”

It was not until 1941 that “President Roosevelt signed the resolution on December 26, 1941, thus establishing the fourth Thursday in November as the Federal Thanksgiving Day holiday,” National Archives said.

Not only did the date of the official Thanksgiving change multiple times before settling on a set Thursday, so did the meals. Major Thanksgiving foods in today’s version did not exist in the original Thanksgiving.

“There was no mention of turkey being at the 1621 bounty, and there was no pie,” Maya Salam said. “Settlers lacked butter and wheat flour for a crust, and they had no oven for baking. What is known is that the Pilgrims harvested crops and that the Wampanoag [Native American tribe] brought five deer.”’

Not only has the food and origins have evolved from the original event, so have the things people do after Thanksgiving dinner. Many people will beeline to the stores for early Black Friday sales after dinner, or even skip Thanksgiving dinner as a whole so they can stack up discounts for holiday presents.

“I think everyone just needs to spend time with their family and reflect on everything they are thankful for,” Senior Chrissy Ross said. “I get really annoyed when people spend Thanksgiving evening in lines at the store, but as long as people spend time with family and reflect on their blessings in life, I am happy with how they celebrated.”

Often, stores bust out the Christmas decorations and gifts the day after Halloween, far before Thanksgiving.

“I love Christmas, but it overshadows Thanksgiving,” Ross said. “It is usually because stores are trying to make money off of Christmas gifts.”

Don’t let the Christmas rush pass over Thanksgiving. Be thankful for your family and friends (and delicious food) before you celebrate the next holiday.

“I often see Christmas decorations before I see the Thanksgiving turkey,” Ross said. “Let’s all be thankful people, then let’s celebrate Christmas!”

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