The centerpiece of contemporary Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada is a large meal, generally centered around a large roasted turkey. The majority of the dishes in the traditional American version of Thanksgiving dinner are made from foods native to the New World, as according to tradition the Pilgrims received these foods from the Native Americans. However, many of the classic traditions attributed to the first Thanksgiving are actually myths introduced later.
The famous ‘First thanksgiving feast’ is said to have taken place in autumn, in the year 1621. The pilgrims organized the feast right after the first harvest. It was a gesture to thank God to help them survive the bitter winter. It was also celebrated as a display of gratitude towards Indians. The feast took place in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The traditional ‘First feast’ formed the basis for the modern ‘Thanksgiving Day’, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November every year.
According to historians, the first thanksgiving feast was eaten outside, as the colonists didn’t have sufficient space to accommodate everyone. Native Indians were invited to the feast as they were the ones who taught pilgrims how to grow food. The feast was held to rejoice their fruits of labour. The food included, ducks, turkeys, geese, swan and venison, fish, berries, watercress, lobster, dried fruit, clams, and plums. The feast continued for three days. It was accompanied by lots of dancing and merry-making.
George Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789. The idea attracted mixed reaction. After campaigning for nearly 80 years, in 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving.
Typical Symbol of Thanksgiving Dinner
The celebration of Thanksgiving will be incomplete without the legendary Turkey. Turkey was at one time being considered as the national symbol of America. Benjamin Franklin felt that turkey was the right choice because it was a good runner and had a sharp sight. A bald eagle later became the national symbol of America.
Another modern staple on almost every Thanksgiving table is the customary ‘Pumpkin Pie’. It is not sure whether pumpkin was one of the dishes in the first Thanksgiving dinner. Pilgrims probably made a pumpkin dish sweetened with honey or syrup. Pumpkin leaves were also used as salads. Pumpkin is one of the important symbols of the harvest festival and has been an American-favourite for over 400 years now.
Corn is one of the popular symbols of thanksgiving. It came in many varieties and colours-red, white, yellow and blue. Some Americans considered blue and white corn sacred. It is said that native Americans had been growing corn a long time before the pilgrims arrived in their country, and corn finds its place on every dinner table world over during thanksgiving dinner. Ornamental Corncobs are quite popular during the festival. They are used to decorate dining tables and make harvest wreaths. Corn reminds us of the importance and heritage of the famous harvest festival. It also remains America’s foundation of ‘Modern-Agriculture ‘.
Beans are a special symbol of Thanksgiving. Native Americans are believed to have taught the pilgrims to grow beans next to cornstalks. This was so that beans could grow and use cornstalks as their pole. Thus American beans are also known as ‘Pole Beans’. Famously known as one of the ‘Three sisters’, beans are a part of thanksgiving feast.
Cranberry, is a symbol and a modern diet staple of thanksgiving. Originally called crane berry, it derived its name from its pink blossoms and drooping head which reminded the pilgrim of a crane. The name was later changed to what is popularly known as Cranberry. Pilgrims soon found out a way to sweeten the bitten cranberries with maple sugar. Ever since cranberry sauce is a permanent companion of turkey during thanksgiving feast.