Looking back at the Thanksgiving holiday

The Thanksgiving holiday has a rich and complicated history to consider.

With another November arriving, it is time to look back on the popular holiday in America known as Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a holiday that is about celebrating the annual harvest and other blessings throughout the past year. Thanksgiving is also about giving thanks to loved ones and showing gratitude in general.

Historically, Americans often consider the 1621 Plymouth Colony celebration as the first Thanksgiving and the origin of the holiday.  According to Capecodetimes.com, Thanksgiving all started when the pilgrims did their first harvest in a “new world”.  This feast lasted about 3 days in a row!  It was not just the pilgrims who celebrated Thanksgiving, the Wampanoag tribe participated and helped the pilgrims survive their first Winter.

As MacArthur students were introduced to in their Tiger Connection classes, though, there was an earlier celebration of Thanksgiving in Florida.  According to nps.gov, the “Mass of Thanksgiving” was celebrated in 1565 in what would become St. Augustine, Florida.  Explorer Pedro Menedez de Aviles and 800 others founded the city of St. Augustine.  Shortly after landing, de Aviles and others celebrated their Thanksgiving with the local Seloy tribe, similar to what the Plymouth Colony would experience nearly 60 years later.

Today, people celebrate Thanksgiving in a variety of ways.  Traditionally, Thanksgiving is celebrated by eating a big meal with friends or family.  Pro football has become common viewing on the day, too.  Also, many now celebrate a “Friendsgiving” before the actual holiday to celebrate with their friends, classmates, or coworkers.

Others choose not to celebrate Thanksgiving because of America’s difficult past with native populations.  Throughout American history, Native Americans have been removed from their land, and even murdered, as the country grew. Even the idyllic story of the Plymouth Colony has been revealed to be overly simplistic, with the groups clashing and the native population decimated by disease brought by the Pilgrims.

While Thanksgiving continues to be a cultural touchstone for many households throughout America, it is important to remember and reflect upon the origins and evolving history as we celebrate each year.