Thanksgiving Day is a celebration of the harvest season and is spent amidst fun, gaiety and merriment. Although initially celebrated in countries like the US and Canada only, the festival has more or less adopted a secular image today, what with the merging of different cultures and traditions. The popular activities that are usually seen on the holiday are family get-togethers and re-unions, communal prayers, decorations, sending warm wishes to near and dear ones and the very popular 'Thanksgiving Dinner'. The communal prayers mainly include various meal time prayers during the day, meant as an expression to thank the Lord for all his blessings and grace. As stated by Ray Stannard Baker, 'Thanksgiving is the holiday of peace, the celebration of work and the simple life... a true folk-festival that speaks the poetry of the turn of the seasons, the beauty of seedtime and harvest, the ripe product of the year - and the deep, deep connection of all these things with God'. These few words grasp the essence of the festival in its true sense. Read on to know more about the origin of this unique and interesting festival.
Origin Of Thanksgiving Celebration
Thanksgiving celebration owes its origin to the autumn harvest feast in 1621, where the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians indulged themselves in festive meals and pastimes. It is now, for all purposes, attributed to as the first Thanksgiving. In the memoirs of Edward Winslow, it is mentioned that soldiers went for fowling and killed as many fowls as necessary, to feed everybody for almost a week. The greatest king Massasoit of the Indians attended the feast with about 90 men and contributed the bounty of five deer they had killed, to Governor Bradford. There was more meat than vegetables in the pilgrims' feasts.
Different type of meats, such as cod, eel, lobster, fowls, venison, rabbit and chicken, were prepared during the feast, as the common mentality of the 17th century did not call for much use of vegetables in the preparations. Moreover, many vegetables were not available to the colonists at that time of the year. Due to the lack of ovens, they were not able to prepare cakes, breads and pies as well. Also, the sugar that the pilgrims had brought with them on the Mayflower was at its end, so there were no sweets too. Hence, although the food was rich, it would have been considered unhealthy by today's standards. But, it was suffice for the pilgrims, as they were hard working people and needed all the proteins that they could get.
During those days, attacks were rare and the only danger that threatened the pilgrims was that of plague and certain other medicinal conditions, like small pox. Despite the common concept of bland taste of English food, pilgrims prepared spicy dishes and used spices, such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, pepper and dried fruit, in sauces for meats. Measures for cooking were unknown and cooks just improvised while cooking and it was mostly experientially done. In fact, the best way to prepare meat in those days was to roast it and someone in the pilgrims was made to sit for hours at a time and turn the spit every now and then so that meat was evenly done. The lack of any form of refrigeration system was yet another problem. Hence, to counteract this, the pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians used to dry many types of food materials such as Indian corn, hams, fish and herbs and used it later while cooking.