The History of Thanksgiving


Ashley Whitley

We all know Thanksgiving is coming up, and we can’t wait to fill our stomachs with delicious food! The bronzed turkey that just comes out the oven, creamy mashed potatoes, and the freshly baked rolls! But have you ever wondered why Thanksgiving is a holiday? How did it all start?


How did it Start?

Colonists from New England made Thanksgiving a day for prayers of blessings for a safe journey. “Americans model their holiday on a 1621 harvest feast shared between English colonists and the Wampanoag. Canadians trace their earliest Thanksgiving to 1578, when a Martin Frobisher-led expedition celebrated safe passage,” David J. Silverman states from Britannica. The first official Thanksgiving Day was on October 1621. It was celebrated by 53 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag, after their first harvest. This event lasted for 3 days. “I think it was celebrated in some parts of the U.S. but not everyone at first. Once the first “Thanksgiving” was celebrated, I think it was recreated in the northwest and spread,” Mrs. Cox states her opinion. Mrs. Cox is a history teacher of Huntingtown high school.

The first Thanksgiving dinner. The pilgrims share their feast with the Wampanoag.

Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is celebrated every year in the United States, in November, to mark the harvest and other blessings of the past year. It can be traced back to 1621, when a harvest feast was shared between the Wampanoag people and the English colonists, who later became known as the Pilgrims of Plymouth. The later feast was hosted to honor the Pilgrims for helping the Native Americans in developing crops and surviving their first severe winter.

This is the traditional dinner of Thanksgiving.

How is it Celebrated?

Traditionally, American families and friends all get together for a feast on Thanksgiving. The traditional foods include turkey, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. Other traditional foods would include: stuffing, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, green beans, corn, and more delicious foods. Mrs. Cox states, “I love my sister-in-law’s macaroni and cheese. It’s so delicious. She’s a fantastic cook!”

This is the Turkey float they have at the Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Traditional events would be parades and football games. Many families around the world watch the NBC Macy’s Thanksgiving parade every year. The 94th Annual Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade will be broadcasted live on NBC and has been since 1948!


When did it become an Official Holiday?

“States had been observing different dates for their Thanksgiving until President George Washington declared that November 6, 1789, would be the first Thanksgiving Day. Things did not change much until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the fourth Thursday in November would stand as the official Thanksgiving Day going forward. He also honored Massachusetts for having the original Thanksgiving in Plymouth Colony in 1622,” states Thanksgiving has been a traditional holiday for exactly 400 years, that’s a pretty long time! Mrs. Cox begins to say, “I believe Abraham Lincoln made the last Thursday of November the official holiday for all of the United States. Way to go, Abe!”


Thanksgiving Traditions and Rituals

In American households, this celebration has lost the original religious significance. Now, it centers on cooking and sharing a meal with family and friends. “Today, nearly 90 percent of Americans eat the bird- weather roasted, baked, or deep-fried – on Thanksgiving,” according to editors. Another tradition that most people do is the wishbone tradition. If you do not know what that is, it is a bone inside the turkey and one person grabs one side of the bone and another person grabs the other. They make a wish and pull at the same time and whoever has the bigger piece their wish is supposed to come true. “Before Covid, we use to take turns staying in Calvert (with husbands’ family) and driving to Indiana to see my parents. This year we will go next door to my sister in laws house for thanksgiving dinner,” states Mrs. Cox.


Other Countries that Celebrate Thanksgiving

Some other countries that celebrate Thanksgiving would be: Australia, Canada, Grenada, Liberia, Netherlands, and Saint Lucia.

“The reasons behind the celebrations are different from country to country. In Australia, Thanksgiving was started after being brought over by whaling ships from America. In Canada, Thanksgiving is held in October and is used to show thankfulness at the end of the harvest season. Grenada’s Thanksgiving holiday isn’t related at all to thankfulness or harvests. Instead, it is held on October 25th, the same day that a U.S.-led invasion occurred in 1983. In Liberia, Thanksgiving started in the 1800s as a celebration of the colonization of freed African Americans. In the Netherlands, Thanksgiving is celebrated in honor of the Pilgrims that lived in the city of Leiden before heading to the New World,” states

This is a Thanksgiving tradition in Grenada. People dress up and have their parade and there’s dancing, music, and food!

Thanksgiving Now

Everyone has their own traditions and their own things they do for Thanksgiving, ranging between eating the tasty savory turkey, to just eating cereal. People get together with their friends and family, and feast and share their thankfulness and blessings with each other. I’m sure glad the Pilgrims had their first dinner, because I love Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays!