Happy Thanksgiving Day - A joyous family festival celebrated with lot of enthusiasm in US, Canada and several other countries

Thanksgiving Day


Thanksgiving Day is a harvest festival celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. Traditionally, it has been a time to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. While it may have been religious in origin, Thanksgiving is now primarily identified as a secular holiday. It is sometimes casually referred to as Turkey Day.

In Canada, Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the second Monday in October, which is Columbus Day in the United States. In the United States, it falls on the fourth Thursday of November.

Thanksgiving Day is also celebrated in Leiden, in the Netherlands. A different holiday which uses the same name is celebrated at a similar time of year in the island of Grenada.

Thanksgiving Day is a joyous family festival celebrated with lot of enthusiasm in US, Canada and several other countries. Thanksgiving Day Festival commemorates the feast held by the Pilgrim colonists and members of the Wampanoag people at Plymouth in 1621. On this day people express gratitude to God for his blessings and give thanks to dear ones for their love & support. Feasting with family is an integral & most delightful part of Thanksgiving Day celebrations. 

Origin of Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving is America's preeminent day. It is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday in the month of November. It has a very interesting history. Its origin can be traced back to the 16th century when the first thanksgiving dinner is said to have taken place.

Journey of Pilgrims
The legendary pilgrims, crossed the Atlantic in the year 1620 in Mayflower-A 17th Century sailing vessel. About 102 people traveled for nearly two months with extreme difficulty. This was so because they were kept in the cargo space of the sailing vessel. No one was allowed to go on the deck due to terrible storms. The pilgrims comforted themselves by singing Psalms- a sacred song.

Arrival in Plymouth
The pilgrims reached Plymouth rock on December 11th 1620, after a sea journey of 66 days. Though the original destination was somewhere in the northern part of Virginia, they could not reach the place owing to winds blowing them off course. Nearly46 pilgrims died due to extreme cold in winter. However, in the spring of 1621, Squanto, a native Indian taught the pilgrims to survive by growing food.

Day of Fasting and Prayer
In the summer of 1621, owing to severe drought, pilgrims called for a day of fasting and prayer to please God and ask for a bountiful harvest in the coming season. God answered their prayers and it rained at the end of the day. It saved the corn crops.

First Thanksgiving Feast
It is said that Pilgrims learnt to grow corn, beans and pumpkins from the Indians, which helped all of them survive . In the autumn of 1621, they held a grand celebration where 90 people were invited including Indians. The grand feast was organized to thank god for his favors. This communal dinner is popularly known as “The first thanksgiving feast”. There is however, no evidence to prove if the dinner actually took place.

While some historians believe pilgrims were quite religious so, their thanksgiving would've included a day of fasting and praying, others say that the Thanksgiving dinner did take place.

Turkey and First Thanksgiving Feast
There is no evidence to prove if the customary turkey was a part of the initial feast. According to the first hand account written by the leader of the colony, the food included, ducks, geese, venison, fish, berries etc.

Pumpkin and Thanksgiving Feast
Pumpkin pie, a modern staple adorning every dinner table, is unlikely to have been a part of the first thanksgiving feast. Pilgrims however, did have boiled pumpkin. Diminishing supply of flour led to the absence of any kind of bread.

The feast continued for three days and was eaten outside due to lack of space. It was not repeated till 1623, which again witnessed a severe drought. Governor Bradford proclaimed another day of thanksgiving in the year 1676. October of 1777 witnessed a time when all the 13 colonies joined in a communal celebration. It also marked the victory over the British.

After a number of events and changes, President Lincoln proclaimed last Thursday in November of thanksgiving in the year 1863. This was due to the continuous efforts of Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor. She wrote a number of articles for the cause.

Thanksgiving Day Symbols

Thanksgiving symbolizes the joy of loving, caring, sharing. It is all about togetherness and merry making. The festival stands for the 'Oneness' of people. It epitomizes peace, harmony and union. People world over thank the Lord almighty for all the blessings and material possessions bestowed on them.

A symbol is an arbitrary sign (written or printed) that has acquired a conventional significance. Special thanksgiving symbols prevalent world over are:




Pumpkin
Pumpkins are a Thanksgiving favorite for about 400 years.Another modern staple at almost every Thanksgiving table is the customary 'Pumpkin Pie'. It is not sure whether pumpkin was one of the dishes in the first thanksgiving dinner. Pilgrims probably made a pumpkin dish sweetened with honey or syrup. They were however a part of all traditional meals long before the arrival of pilgrims. Pumpkin leaves were also used as salads. According to historians, other seasonal vegetables included squash. People at that time were not particularly fond of vegetables, they were mostly meat eaters. Pumpkin is one of the important symbols of the harvest festival and has been an American-favourite for over 400 years now.


Turkey



Turkey is an inseparable part of Thanksgiving celebration. The celebration of Thanksgiving will be incomplete without the legendary Turkey. It derives its name from the 'turk turk' sounds it makes when scared. Turkey was at one time being considered as the national symbol of America. Benjamin Franklin felt that turkey was the right choice because it was a good runner and had a sharp sight. A bald eagle later became the national symbol of America.  

First Thanksgiving Feast
The famous 'Turkey' adorns the table of every household as a main course during the celebration. The customary dinner reminds of the 'Four Wild Turkeys' served at the 'First Thanksgiving Feast'. 

It is said, that pilgrims had a feast consisting of cooked turkey after their first harvest in the year 1621, which popularly came to be known as 'First Thanksgiving Feast'. It continued for three days and included ninety Indians. There is however no evidence to prove that turkey was cooked during the first feast. It could have been Venison-flesh of a deeror wild goose meat. 

According to folklore Queen Elizabeth of 16th century England was chewing a roast goose during a harvest festival. During the meal, she got to know that the Spanish Armada, on its way to attack England had sunk. In the joy of good news, she ordered for a second goose. Goose became a favourite bird at harvest time in England. However, when the pilgrims arrived in America, they replaced the roasted goose with roasted turkey as main course as it was easier to find and in plenty. 

Today, every house cooks turkey as the main dish during the celebration. It is the main mascot of the modern-day thanksgiving. The festivity completes with the customary 'Turkey Song'. 

Thanksgiving Day Turkey Song
O turkey dear
O turkey dear
How lovely are thy feathers

O turkey dear
O turkey dear
There could be nothing better!

We celebrate Thanksgiving Day
By putting your carcass on display.

O turkey dear
O turkey dear
You thought we were friends who came to greet you.

O turkey dear
O turkey dear
We gathered here to eat you!

O turkey day
O turkey day
The family is all together

O turkey day
O turkey day
We've over come bad weather

Seeing the family is so fab
We'll see ya'll again in rehab.

O turkey day
O turkey day
We'll drink away your memory.

Corn


Corn were a part of first thanks giving feast & are popular till date. Corn is one of the popular symbols of thanksgiving. It came in many varieties and colours-red, white, yellow and blue. Some Americans considered blue and white corn sacred. It is said that native Americans had been growing corn a long time before the pilgrims arrived in their country. The oldest corns date 7000 years back and were grown in Mexico. Americans taught pilgrims how to grow corn and help them survive the bitter winter of 1620. It is certain that corn were a part of the first thanksgiving dinner.

The tradition continues and corn finds its place on every dinner table world over during thanksgiving dinner. Ornamental Corncobs are quite popular during the festival. They are used to decorate dining tables and make harvest wreaths- A popular gift item among Americans. Ornamental popcorns are also widely used. Corn reminds us of the importance and heritage of the famous harvest festival. It also remains America's foundation of 'Modern-Agriculture '. 



Cranberry
Cranberry sauce is turkey's favorite thanksgiving feast partner. Cranberry, is a symbol and a modern diet staple of thanksgiving. Originally called crane berry, it derived its name from its pink blossoms and drooping head which reminded the pilgrim of a crane. The name was later changed to what is popularly known as Cranberry. Pilgrims soon found out a way to sweeten the bitten cranberries with maple sugar. Ever since cranberry sauce is a permanent companion of turkey during thanksgiving feast. 

Cornucopia
Cornucopia is a horn-shaped basket filled with fruits & goodies. Cornucopia is the most common symbol of a harvest festival. A Horn shaped container, it is filled with abundance of the Earth's harvest. It is also known as the 'horn of plenty'. The traditional cornucopia was a curved goat's horn filled to brim with fruits and grains. According to Greek legend, Amalthea (a goat) broke one of her horns and offered it to Greek God Zeus as a sign of reverence. As a sign of gratitude, Zeus later set the goat's image in the sky also known as constellation Capricorn.



Beans
Beans are regarded as the third of the Indian Three Sisters. Beans are a special symbol of thanksgiving. Native Americans are believed to have taught the pilgrims to grow beans next to cornstalks. This was so that beans could grow and use cornstalks as their pole. Thus American beans are also known as 'Pole Beans'. Famously known as one of the 'Three sisters', beans are a part of thanksgiving feast.







Courtesy : http://www.thanksgiving-day.org/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving

0 comments

Popular Posts