Thanksgiving develops new traditions

The first balloon for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade moves through Times Square Thursday, Nov. 23, 2006 in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)


The first balloon for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade moves through Times Square Thursday, Nov. 23, 2006 in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Savannah C.'22, Writer

Thanksgiving is a holiday Americans celebrate on the fourth Thursday of November since America was founded. The first Thanksgiving, held in Plymouth Colony in 1621, has laid the foundations of modern day Thanksgiving festivities. From cooked and stuffed turkey, to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Americans have evolved the early idea of peace between the Native Americans and the settlers to a day of football and lavish family reunions. 

In September 1620, a small ship named the “Mayflower” left Plymouth, England carrying 102 passengers seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and gain their own land. After crossing the ocean for 66 days, the ship landed near the tip of Cape Cod, north of their intended destination. Because of sea sickness, exposure of the cold and outbreaks of disease, only half of the passengers lived to see the spring. March of the same year, the remaining settlers moved ashore where they met an Indian named Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe, according to

 Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag tribe. After the Pilgrims’ first successful corn harvest, Governor William Bradford organized a feast to celebrate with their new Native American allies. This celebration later would be recognized as the first Thanksgiving, according to

“While harvest festivals would remain common throughout early America, it was not until 1863 that Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in an attempt to heal a nation at war. The thought being that breaking bread together would bridge the sectional divide, to no avail,” AP United States history teacher Daniel Harris said. 

The traditions of Thanksgiving have shown immense evolution through the food and types of celebration held in family’s homes. 

    For Americans, Thanksgiving meals vary from family to family. However, the most common seasonal dishes include roast turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. But, these famous Thanksgiving dishes were not served at the original Thanksgiving feast. Birds common to the region would have been the main course of protein at the dinner. Such animals include, duck, geese and swan. Wild turkey was also present in Massachusetts at the time, according to

“My family loves to have mashed potatoes with our Thanksgiving dinner,” Mackenzie C. ’22 said. 

Another varied difference between families on Thanksgiving day is how they choose to spend time with their family. Some homes sit and watch the anticipated football game. The concept of American football games being played on Thanksgiving Day dates back to 1876, shortly after the game was invented. The college football teams of Yale and Princeton even began an annual tradition of playing each other on Thanksgiving Day according to

Broadcasted on television every Thanksgiving morning, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade carts through New York City. The first Macy’s parade was held in 1924 and has captivated the views of families across the country. The parade took shape during the Roaring Twenties, a time of prosperity and economical pleasure. It was staged by Macy’s employees, of whom immigrated to America from Europe and longed to stage a celebration similar to the ones in their countries according to

“I watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade every year, and my favorite part is always the Rockette’s performance. I also love seeing the singers and bands that I enjoy,” Madison K ‘22 said. 

Thanksgiving has evolved from the days of the Plymouth Pilgrims and Powhatan tribe, to the modern family gatherings and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Either way, Americans celebrate the peace which laid the foundations of American history and prosperity.