Thanksgiving warrants history lesson


As skeletons are taken down and pumpkins put away, dreams of turkeys and pilgrims take place throughout November. However, people across the nation have little knowledge of the true history and meaning of the real Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving started in 1621 in the Plymouth colony. After a year of sickness and starvation, Pilgrims received a plentiful harvest. To celebrate, Pilgrims feasted on their bountiful amount of food and played recreational activities. As the Puritans arrived on American soil, the nation’s idea of the Thanksgiving festivities came to life as both groups’ traditions combined.

According to, “The New England custom of rejoicing after a successful harvest is based on ancient English harvest festivals; and the Puritan Thanksgiving is a solemn religious observance combining prayer and feasting,”

However, while this is the basis of the first Thanksgiving, there is little record of any future celebrations.

“Thanksgiving has a varied history due to people’s personal beliefs on when to give thanks,” world history teacher Daniel Harris said.  


The nation’s conflicting view on the holiday made President Abraham Lincoln turn Thanksgiving into a national holiday in 1863. Lincoln took this presidential action to bring the country together during the Civil War.

Due to Thanksgiving being celebrated across the nation, people created their own cultural traditions to give thanks. With these changes, differences from the first Thanksgiving to the present are more noticeable.

“One of the biggest differences is the Thanksgiving meal and how it is prepared. Today we eat more processed sweets and less game,” Harris said.

Another difference is the way Native Americans are viewed. In the past, Native Americans were treated as obstacles in the way of gaining more land.

According to, “This was the beginning of their end- a time where they had given up their land in return for gifts that were full of disease,”

With this action, results of several Native American tribes not celebrating the holiday hundreds of years later.

The last difference is the entertainment such as the Macy’s Parade. The Thanksgiving Day parade first started in 1924 and runs through the streets of New York City. The parade grew into a major success when it appeared on television in 1954. With elaborate floats, the parade symbolized something much bigger.


According to, “The Friday after Thanksgiving has been known as the unofficial start to a bustling holiday shopping season,”

In the 1960’s, Black Friday started as a way to Christmas shop early. It allowed stores to switch from their autumn inventory to their winter products. Today, it is one of the busiest days of the year to shop due to many deals across the big incorporated stores. NFL games also have a presence in Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving games have become a national phenomenon. While games are shown on the holiday, there is one game shown year after year on TV.

“The Lions and Cowboys always play on Thanksgiving. It is an annual tradition,” Harris said.

Yet, while there are differences between history and today’s traditions, there are still people who celebrate Thanksgiving in their own way.

“My traditions are not the most exciting, but we get together with one family for Thanksgiving and the other for Christmas. I always get a slice of pumpkin pie with lots of whipped cream. Also, when we are with my wife’s family, they cook great tamales,” Harris said.


Students also spend time with their family as a tradition.

“My family heads up to Michigan to visit my grandparent’s house on my Mom’s side,” junior Amanda J. said.