by Sarah E. King
The first Thanksgiving took place in 1621, as an autumn harvest feast shared by the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians.
Harvest feasts were quite common with Native American tribes, including the Pueblo, Creek and Cherokee. The idea is to celebrate the harvest and give thanks for a successful bounty of crops.
Atlantic Ocean traveler Captain John Woodlief and a group of British settlers knelt in prayer after a long voyage from Britain in 1619, and pledged “Thanksgiving” to God for their safe arrival. This is argued to be the true beginning of the Thanksgiving tradition.
No forks were used during the first feasts; only spoons, knives and fingers.
Kitchens, common cooking tools and other essential items were not available to the Pilgrims when it came time to prepare the first feast. Simply putting together a meal for one family was a feat, as opposed to the great act of preparing a meal for over a hundred people.
Swan, eel, lobster, eagles, venison and seals, along with wild turkey, were among the foods eaten at the first meal. Oddly enough, ham, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob and cranberry sauce are all recent additions to the tradition.
Going against popular belief, the first Thanksgiving was actually three days long, and occurred between September 21 and November 11, based on the English harvest festivals.
In 1817, New York State adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom, and by the middle of the 19th century, many other states had done the same. President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the date for the fourth Thursday of November as the official day in 1939.
Virginia is one of the homes for turkeys pardoned by the President of the United States every year. These lucky turkeys live out the rest of their days at a petting zoo in Frying Pan Park in Herdnon, or as the honorary grand marshals for Disneyland’s Thanksgiving Day parade, after which, they live at a Disneyland ranch.
In a U.S. Census report, popular Thanksgiving items top the charts in production every year. A 2006 poll showed 690 million pounds of cranberries, 1.6 billion pounds of sweet potatoes, 841,280 tons of green beans and 1.8 billion bushels of wheat were produced.
Nearly 280 million turkeys are sold every year for the Thanksgiving celebration.
Giving thanks is not just about tradition and history, but being thankful for those around you, like family and friends. Give thanks this season for all the good in your life.