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Historical facts can sometimes be misinterpreted, changed, or simply forgotten as time passes, both on purpose and accidentally. This tendency results in the emergence of many myths that people treat as real facts. American history is not an exception in this context and its colonial history in particular. One of the popular customs that roots back to the Pilgrims’ times is Thanksgiving Day. Nevertheless, much of the information that is traditionally considered to be history appears to be a myth. Thus, what are the real facts that originated in the Thanksgiving celebration?
Usually, history books contain a familiar picture depicting a group of Pilgrims preparing a November feast to celebrate a successful harvest of 1621 and thank the local Indian population for help. The Pilgrims were the Plymouth settlers, and the ritual meal was an embodiment of hypothetical collaboration between Pilgrims and the natives (Fee & Webb, 2016). This event is treated as the first Thanksgiving dinner, which started a tradition that is a couple of centuries old. Still, the fact is that this event was not called Thanksgiving until the 1830s (Salam, 2017). Moreover, the holiday became official only in 1863 during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, when it was treated as a thank you for victories in the Civil War.
Also, the event is traditionally treated as a religious occasion, which is not true because a harvest festival with drinking and gambling can hardly be considered solemn. In addition, there are doubts that the festival could be organized in November since the harvest time is usually in September and October. Finally, meals that are common for contemporary Thanksgiving were not a part of a menu of Pilgrims of that time. On the whole, there are probably more myths than historical facts in the tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving.
Fee, C. R., & Webb, J. B. (Eds.). (2016). American myths, legends, and tall tales: An encyclopedia of American folklore (Vol. I). Santa-Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.
Salam, M. (2017). Most everything you learned about Thanksgiving is wrong. The New York Times. Web.