Why Do Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving?

Why Do Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving

Why Do Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving in America is one of the national holidays filled with pomp and ceremony. The fun-filled day is celebrated in the United States on the third Thursday of every November. It’s equal to or greater than Christmas or Halloween in the hearts of Americans as they come all out displaying their culinary skills using traditional turkey, vegetables, stuffing, and other treats. But why do Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?

To find the answer to this question, you’ve got to trace the holiday back far beyond 1939 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt got the approval of Congress to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Three centuries earlier in 1621, what is known today as Thanksgiving was first celebrated by the Pilgrims in  Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts.

There are religious and moral sides to why Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. The American church claims to celebrate Thanksgiving to show gratefulness to a faithful God who saw the Pilgrims, the setters from England, through the arduous journey. The church also celebrates it supposedly as a sign of reference to God, thanking him for his faithfulness and goodness.

However, to avoid religious dogma, we stick to the secular side. A group of 102 voyagers started the 65-day journey in 1620 onboard the Mayflower, a famous English ship about the size of a city bus. Only a half of them survived the journey due to harsh winter and starvation. Despite such a serious loss of human lives, they had a reason to rejoice.

When the voyage ended in 1621 after navigating the Atlantic, they settled in Plymouth. The Pilgrims saw a good harvest and invited the Native Americans, namely the Wampanoag, to the harvest celebrations so that they too could partake of the harvest feast. Thus, Thanksgiving was born. However, it was in 1623 that they named what they commemorated two years earlier Thanksgiving.

The then-Governor William Bradford ordered everyone to commemorate Thanksgiving. But what really happened was more of a festival than spiritual during the original celebrations that lasted for three days. The Pilgrims and their Native American guests would entertain themselves with cod, lobster, and deer, and goose and not the turkey and stuffing being used today.

The celebration continued until 1789 when President George Washington made the proclamation making it a national holiday. It was an on-and-off holiday at the whims of powers that were. In fact, President Thomas Jefferson didn’t celebrate it.

It became a federal holiday, however, in 1863 at the order of President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. Even then, there were controversies regarding the celebration bordering on timings, dates, traditions, and purpose.

Roosevelt put all these to rest in 1939 by solidifying the modern timing and dates in spite of all those controversies.


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Even up till today, some Native Americans are active in their opposition to the celebration of Thanksgiving. They see it as glorifying the displacement of their revered ancestors by colonial masters who they claim stole their lands and infect them with diseases. Others also reject the holiday for religious reasons.

Now that you’ve got a better understanding of what you’re doing if you joined in the next celebration, do you know another reason why Americans celebrate Thanksgiving? Please let us know in the comment section below.                           

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