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History of Thanksgiving Essay

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Updated: May 7th, 2019

Misconceptions in Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was first introduced in the American society in 1637 by the Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor referred to as Winthrop. However, thanksgiving was practiced by the American Natives even before 1637. To many American scholars, thanksgiving is a very old concept that was practiced even before it was made a public holiday. One of the fallacies is that it is linked to the American Indian populace. It is usually linked to the legendary Indians and Pilgrim myth.

One fact is that thanksgiving is plays an important role in the enrichment of the American culture and history. However, it is inaccurate to associate it with the Indian people because it was practiced even by other American Natives. Associating it with Indians is distorting the American history because the reality is that it did not start as a great affectionate relationship between the pilgrims and the Wampanoag, Pequot, and Narragansett.

History shows that the Pilgrim survivors of 1621 celebrated the thanksgiving ceremony without even inviting the Indians. They did not incorporate turkey and pumpkin pie into their diet since the ingredients were non-existent. When the ceremony was being conducted, the officials ensured that a wall was erected to keep off Indians from attending the party.

The Governor of Massachusetts arranged for a thanksgiving celebration to commemorate the return of the soldiers who had been deployed in Connecticut to defend the colony (Bradford 78). The soldiers had been sent to Connecticut with clear instructions to exterminate over seven-hundred men, women, and children from Pequot community.

Separating Facts from Fiction

Scholars identify four reasons why thanksgiving is a subject of contention in the American society. To understand thanksgiving as a ceremony, facts ought to be separated from fiction. History scholars have really tried to separate facts from fiction as regards to thanksgiving ceremony. It is fictional to believe that the Pilgrims held the first thanksgiving ceremony. In the American educational system, children literature shows that thanksgiving as a subject cannot be explored without mentioning Indians and Pilgrims.

However, this is not true because thanksgiving was first celebrated by other native communities without even inviting the Indians. The first real thanksgiving ceremony was held at St. Augustine area before 1600. Each community had its own way of celebrating or thanking their maker. History attributes thanksgiving to Indians, which is not true. When other communities arrived in the US safely, they organized for various parties to thank their God for leading them wisely.

For instance, the Green Corn Ceremony of the Cherokee is believed to have taken place before the thanksgiving celebration. The community thanked their maker for giving them good crops each harvesting season. It is unnecessary for children to make tall paper hats and cardboard shoe buckles to commemorate the achievements of their forefathers yet there are other means through which they could appreciate the efforts of their forefathers.

It is also fictional to believe that thanksgiving ceremony has a specified dressing code. People are meant to believe that a bunch of dour, black and buckle cloths were worn during the party.

In the paintings provided in the 17th century, it is evident that special cloths were made for the elites to be used during the celebration. However, this does not mean that the poor were excluded from the celebrations since they were allowed to attend the party with cloths of their choice. It is fictional to believe that thanksgiving ceremony is a party to be held every year.

Thanksgiving is a ceremony that should be arranged any time of the year, as long as an individual feels that he or she has achieved something. The ceremony was actually meant for religious celebrations to thank God for enabling the natives to achieve their ambitions. In the modern world, the ceremony is misused because people use it as a leisure event. In the 18th century, states in the US celebrated thanksgiving holiday without necessarily waiting for the end of the year.

After the American Civil War, the president, Abraham Lincoln, decided to come up with a federal date to commemorate thanksgiving holiday since the nation was highly divided. The holiday served the purpose of uniting Americans who were divided on racial lines. In 1939 to 1941, the celebrations were extended in order to help the country recover from the consequences of The Great Depression.

Finally, it is fictional to believe that the Pilgrims ate turkey at the first thanksgiving ceremony. In the current society, many Americans incorporate the turkey in their meals during the ceremony believing that it was first used during the ceremony. Turkey was not even popular among the Native Americans so it could not be the main meal at the time.

Real Story of the Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a public holiday celebrated in the United States each fourth day of November. The day has been celebrated from 1863, after the American Civil War. It is celebrated to remember the men and women who perished in the war. The president instructed that the day be remembered because very many Americans lost their lives while fighting for freedom.

The holiday is a federal holiday meaning that it is celebrated by all races in the country. However, the holiday traces its roots in the celebrations conducted by Pilgrims in 1621, especially during harvests. In its original nature, the celebrations lasted for at least three days. Moreover, it was supposed to be attended by the fifty-three Pilgrims and at least ninety-three Native Americans.

Thanksgiving was specifically meant to thank God for the power he provided to the colonists. Colonists could converge every time they succeeded in war. Others would express their sincere thanks after a calamity such as drought. Among the Native Americans, the celebrations were religious because it was believed that God had done a lot to the lives of people. The celebration was first held as an impromptu religious ceremony, but it was made a civil tradition in the preceding years.

Comparison between Truth and Fiction regarding Thanksgiving in the History of America

While some scholars observe that the first thanksgiving ceremony was conducted by Indians, the truth is that it existed even before the Indians migrated to America. It is true that the first thanksgiving ceremony took place in 1598, twenty-three years before the Pilgrim festival was celebrated.

The first thanksgiving ceremony was conducted by a Spanish explorer who led his people through the Mexican dessert for several years. Another fiction regarding the thanksgiving ceremony is that it was held in 1619 by the English settlers. The truth is that the London based company sponsored the Englishmen to celebrate the arrival of the ship that was carrying valuable goods.

Many people believe that thanksgiving is a ceremony that is related to the family. An individual should consider thanksgiving a Pilgrim festival because it was a religious event. In this regard, it cannot be a family issue given the fact that family members need not to belong to a single religious group. The Pilgrims invited Indians to take part in the celebrations because it was a multicultural event.

The paintings of Norman Rockwell tend to mislead people to believe that thanksgiving is about eating and sharing with family members. Even though historians claim that thanksgiving was a religious event, it was not strictly practiced by those subscribing to the Indian religion alone.

In other words, it was a communal affair because other communities subscribing to different religious teachings were also invited. However, the fact remains that it was partly a religious event, but not a family affair. There is a popular myth that Pilgrims ate turkey during the thanksgiving ceremony. This is not true because turkey was not readily available in society. Pilgrims did not have apples, pears, and potatoes because these were foreign foods.

It is accurate to claim that pilgrims ate deer because it was readily available. Before the 17th century, the log cabin had never appeared in the United States. However, it is claimed that Pilgrims lived in these log cabins (Love 67). The writings of various scholars suggest that Pilgrims wore black clothes, yet the reality is that they did not even dress in funny buckles. Another reality is that Pilgrims were not similar in any way with the Puritans. Many people, including President Ronald Reagan, confused this fact.

Works Cited

Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation. Boston: Little Brown and Co, 1856. Print.

Bradford, William. Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1952. Print.

Love, William. The Fast and Thanksgiving Days of New England. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co, 1895. Print.

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1. IvyPanda. "History of Thanksgiving." May 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/thanksgiving-3/.


IvyPanda. "History of Thanksgiving." May 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/thanksgiving-3/.


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