The Meaning of Thanksgiving – Traditions Old and New

Thanksgiving is a longstanding american tradition. The first north american thanksgiving was in 1578, conducted by an English minister by the name of Wolfall along the shores of Newfoundland. He was joined by the expedition that brought the first English colony to the americas. The record log noted this observance: “Here we highly praised God and altogether upon our knees gave Him due humble and hearty thanks”.

Much later the day of Thanksgiving was set apart as a day for prayer and rejoicing by Governor Bradford as a day of graditude for the abundant harvest of 1621. This day of celebration followed a great depression, and it was proclaimed that a day of thanksgiving be observed on December 13th.

On that day men were sent out to hunt for game. This is where the association came about bringing together the day of thanksgiving and the turkey. Wild turkeys were the primary fowl the men returned with on that day, and the colony was fed sufficiently for a week. The women added to this day by preparing all the goodies to accompany this abundance of fowl meat.

Early that morning, at the dawning of the first official Thanksgiving day, the cannon on the hill rang out, and the people solemnly made their way to the meeting house. Following a service the people commenced their great feast. From that point the celebration grew, for the colony was joined by the local indians, ninety in number, who brought their own offering of venison. This Thanksgiving was not just one day but three, combining feasting with psalms and songs, war dances presented by the indians, and exhibitions of military drills by the soldiers.

In the years to follow Thanksgiving celebrations took place sometimes once in a year, sometimes twice. In some years the celebration was skipped altogether. The reasons for these celebrations varied, from a plentiful harvest to the arrival of a ship with supplies. The celebration of Thanksgiving became official in 1684 with a formal celebration in Massachusetts.

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