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Happy Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday celebrated each November in the United States is known worldwide as an American custom, but its roots extend far back into human history.

According to research conducted by The Center for World Thanksgiving at Thanks-Giving Square, the first Americans observed rituals and ceremonies to express gratitude to a higher power for life itself. A Seneca Indian ritual, for example, states, "Our Creator ... Shall continue to dwell above the sky, and this is where those on the earth will end their thanksgiving." Another quotation attributed to American Indians before Columbus is, "The plant has its nourishment from the earth and its limbs go up this way, in praise of its Maker ... like the limbs of a tree."

The Pilgrims' First Harvest Feast

According to historical sources, the Pilgrims never held an autumnal Thanksgiving feast. The Pilgrims did have a feast in 1621 near Plymouth, Massachusetts, after their first harvest. This is the feast people often refer to as "The First Thanksgiving." This feast was never repeated, so it can't be called the start of a tradition, nor did the colonists or Pilgrims call it a Thanksgiving Feast. In fact, to these devoutly religious people, a day of thanksgiving was a day of prayer and fasting.

Nevertheless, the 1621 feast has become a model for the Thanksgiving celebration in the United States. More than likely, this first harvest feast was eaten outside, based on the fact that the colonists didn't have a building large enough to accommodate all the people who came. Native Americans definitely were among the invited guests, and it's possible, even probable, that turkey (roasted but not stuffed) and pumpkin in some form found their way to the table. The feast is described in a firsthand account presumably written by a leader of the colony, Edward Winslow, as it appears in Mourt's Relation:

"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

From this we know that the feast went on for three days, included 90 "Indians," as Native Americans were called then, and had plentiful food. In addition to the venison provided by the Native Americans, there was enough wild fowl to supply the village for a week. The fowl included ducks, geese, turkeys and even swans.

Thanksgiving in America

Thanksgiving Day in America is a time to offer thanks, of family gatherings and holiday meals. A time of turkeys, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. A time for Indian corn, holiday parades and giant balloons

First Thanksgiving

Collection of Turkey recipes

Thanksgiving History

Granny's Thanksgiving bread

Carving the Perfect Turkey

National Turkey Federation-Turkey Facts

Thanksgiving Puzzle Game

Timeline of American Thanksgiving Holiday

  • 1541 During Coronado's expedition a Eucharistic thanksgiving, with the friendly Teya Indians present, occurred in Palo Duro Canyon in West Texas.
  • 1621 Pilgrims and Native Americans enjoyed a harvest feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts. This feast may have become the model for today's American celebration.
  • 1630 Settlers and colonists from many continents brought customs of days of prayer and thanksgiving, especially in New England, where the first Thanksgiving of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was observed on July 8, 1630.
  • 1777 The first Thanksgiving of the new United States of America occurred in 1777 when General George Washington and his army, as instructed by the Continental Congress, stopped in bitter weather in the open fields on their way to Valley Forge to mark the occasion.
  • 1789 Washington's first proclamation after his inauguration as the nation's first president in 1789 declared November 26, 1789, as a national day of "thanksgiving and prayer."
  • 1800s The annual presidential thanksgiving proclamations ceased for 45 years in the early 1800s.
  • 1863 President Abraham Lincoln resumed the tradition in 1863.
  • November 26, 1941 President Roosevelt signed the bill establishing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. Because two years out of every seven have five Thursdays in November, some states for the next 15 years celebrated on their own on the last Thursday. Since 1956, the fourth Thursday in November has been observed by every state.

  • Turkey Pardon

    As is customary, the President of the United States is expected to pardon a turkey on the eve of Thanksgiving at a White House ceremony. The tradition dates back fifty years to Harry Truman and has been compassionately enforced ever since. The turkey is given to Kidwell Farm, a petting zoo at Frying Pan Park in Herndon, Virginia. The turkey in question gets a last minute pardon before arriving, and is then led to his new home at the Turkey Barn after enduring a turkey "roast" full of poultry humor and history.

    President Bush Issues Turkey Pardon 2001
    National Turkey Pardon 2000

    How Macy's thanksgiving Parade started
    parade Picparade Picparade pic

    It actually stems from European tradition. In the 1920's many of Macy's department store employees were first-generation immigrants. Proud of their new American heritage, they wanted to celebrate the American holiday with the type of festival they loved in Europe
    The employees marched from 145 Street down to 34th Street dressed as clowns, cowboys, knights and sheiks. There were floats, professional bands and 25 live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. With an audience of over a quarter of a million people, the parade was a hit! Large balloons first appeared in 1927 with Felix the Cat. One tradition long gone is the releasing of the balloons. They would float for days and the lucky finder could claim a prize!
    Macy's Parade 2001


    songs of Praise by Elton John

    For Graphics thanks to Loraine Wauer Ferus
    Annes Place