Happy Thanksgiving! Today is my favorite day of the year, and I’m thankful to be celebrating with you via the A Lady in London blog. As an expat, one of the most common questions I get asked on Thanksgiving is about the history of the holiday. I haven’t studied the subject in-depth since I was 7, so I’ve often struggled to articulate the story of Thanksgiving. But I’m going to remedy that with this post.
Story of Thanksgiving
I’m telling the story partly to inform anyone who’s curious about this American tradition. I’m also telling it partly to refresh my own memory and those of any other expats or Americans abroad so we don’t feel quite so foolish if we can’t remember our Thanksgiving history. Above all, I’m telling it to invite others around the world to celebrate with us today, as Thanksgiving is a great time to reflect on the year and all we have to give thanks for.
History of Thanksgiving
So what is Thanksgiving all about? There are different accounts of how it came to pass, but the generally accepted one starts with the Pilgrims. This group of religious separatists sailed from England to Plymouth, Massachusetts on a ship called the Mayflower in 1620.
Upon arrival, they met with less-than-ideal geographic and climactic conditions and suffered from illness and other maladies during their first winter. Thankfully, they were approached by a Native American named Squanto in 1621. He taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate corn and other crops, and helped them forge friendly relations with the local Native American tribe.
That autumn, the Pilgrims had a successful harvest. In celebration, they invited the Native Americans to join them for a meal of thanksgiving. This was repeated two years later, and a feast of this kind eventually became a formal tradition in many American states. Thanksgiving was named an official national holiday in 1863, when Abraham Lincoln declared it so during the Civil War. Since then it has become one of the most important days of the year for many Americans.
If you want to dig deeper into the subject, you can read more about it on the History website.
Thanksgiving is celebrated throughout the US today, and is primarily a family holiday. The week of the fourth Thursday in November is one of the busiest travel periods of the year, when people from all over the country (and world) make their way home to celebrate with loved ones.
I’ve written extensively about traditional American Thanksgiving foods, the most important of which is a turkey. Every family has its own variation on the meal, which makes eating with locals a treat on Turkey Day (and many love adopting orphans on Thanksgiving, so it’s not hard to get an invitation).
Above all, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. This year has been a tough one for many people (myself included), but it’s days like today that can help us remember how much we have to be grateful for. I’m thankful to be sharing this holiday and the story of Thanksgiving with you. Happy Turkey Day!
How about you? Do you have Thanksgiving traditions, or is the holiday new to you?