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About the real tale of Thanksgiving

By Charles Hopkins Published 10/14/2006 | Social Issues

Thanksgiving has now become a part of the American cultural life. It is celebrated in a gala, festive mood and there is rejoicing throughout the United States. But, history says that the original celebrations were held in England during the season of harvest when people delivered their sincere gratitude to God for the rich production of crops. Also, there was the wish that such yield should continue in the years to come.

Initiation of Thanksgiving in America

The tale takes us back to 1619. We are all aware of Charles City in Virginia. It was on December 4 of the same year when thirty-eight Englishmen came down to settle there. At that time, it was known as Berkeley Plantation, situated on the James River. These folks wanted to observe the day of successfully reaching their destination by offering prayers and thanks to God.  This was when the first Thanksgiving Day in America was celebrated.

This celebration was mainly meant to pay homage to God, therefore there wasnt really any type of fun and feast. It was specifically ritualistic and confirmed by traditional oath. With the winds of change today, Thanksgiving Day has a different outlook to portray about American life. It is celebrated in a way where the traditional rituals are clubbed together, while relishing food and drinks and is more known as a party time.

First day of Thanksgiving in New England

The New England episode of Thanksgiving celebration is the most famous historical tale associated with this custom. In 1620, a group of people started their voyage on a ship called Mayflower in search of a new land. Their expedition began from Plymouth in England. This Plymouth group was popularly known as pilgrims but at the initial phase of their journey, they were divided into two categories - the saints and the strangers. After completing sixty-six days of their travel an agreement, known as Mayflower Compact, was made where all of them came to be known as pilgrims.

The first landing on an unknown land was full of adversities for these Plymouth pilgrims. The original inhabitants basically drove them off the land. Finally in 1621, the group reached Massachusetts. Here the chilling winter became impossible for them to bear and, among 102 pilgrims, only half could survive it and the others died.

In the spring season of the same year, two Indians led the whole group to a safer area. They helped the Plymouth group to grow and raise crops, mainly maize. Later, Samoset and Squanto, two original inhabitants of the new land, which was actually a part of America, also helped the pilgrims in growing other crops like peas, beans, barley and pumpkins. Hunting, too, became a part of their livelihood. Now when the fall season, also known as Autumn, approached and the harvest procedure began, the then governor of the group announced it to be a festive occasion. There were double reasons to celebrate. One, to pay tribute to the Heavenly Father that they could survive such adversities, and the other was the yield that will feed them in the days to come.

This celebration continued in a rejoicing mood for about three days and included not only the pilgrims but also the local inhabitants, the Indians and the Eastern Tribal groups from Woodlands. The time frame which this event took place is thought to be sometime between September and November. But this was a single time event. After this, it was in 1676 that the Governing Council of Charlestown brought forward the proposal of celebrating the event of sending thanks and paying gratitude in an official manner as a part of their rituals. June 29 was officially declared as the date to observe Thanksgiving Day. Still, this day didnt remain fixed. Finally in 1941, under the leadership of President Roosevelt in America, the fourth Thursday in the month of November was declared as Thanksgiving Day.

What is celebrated today as Thanksgiving Day has a long and interesting history at its core. The real essence of the day is shared with the values of fellow-feeling and sharing, which keep us on in the struggle for existence.