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Thanksgiving Day: Evolving Significance But Consistent Gratitude

If you are fond of watching Netflix shows like me, then I am confident you have seen them celebrating Thanksgiving by eating turkey with their family. It might shock you, but Thanksgiving goes beyond just eating turkey XD. Well, as the name suggests, Thanksgiving means conveying thanks to god. 

The Plymouth colonists (English puritans who were then known as pilgrims) and Wampanoag Americans used to celebrate together by sharing feasts to celebrate their bountiful harvest as a gesture to thank god. This day is celebrated today as Thanksgiving Day.

The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.

William Blake: English poet & painter

However, later the essence of Thanksgiving changed, and it was then celebrated to cherish military wins over native Americans. The Thanksgiving days were then determined by the governors and priests until one day George Washington, as the president, gave the day for thanksgiving celebrations in 1789. Thanksgiving lost its charm after that since most of the presidents following Washington ignored it. 

The holiday’s revival took place in 1863 when president Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November to be celebrated as Thanksgiving Day during the Civil War, making the holiday an American tradition. However, that did not last long either. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved the holiday up by one week during The Great Depression in order to encourage retail sales. But many Americans did not accept the change and even mocked it by calling it ‘Franksgiving.’ Due to this, the final Thursday of November was again officially declared as Thanksgiving Day by the passing of a joint resolution by the US congress in 1941. 

The history of Thanksgiving has had ups and downs and evolved in its meaning and significance as well, but today, the holiday is majorly celebrated as a way to get together with family, be thankful for everything around, and of course, enjoy the turkey. Turkey became synonymous with Thanksgiving Day because it was a crucial part of the menu of the first-ever Thanksgiving. 

According to the renowned book ‘Holiday Symbols and Customs’ by Sue Ellen Thompson, the Plymouths and Wampanoags hunted and ate large birds since they were readily available and easier to capture. As they became a major source of nutrition for early Americans, turkey made its way to the Thanksgiving dinner as well. As per the National Turkey Federation, approximately 46 million turkeys are served every Thanksgiving. Now that’s a big number to tell how important they are for the day. It’s not just the turkey, but pumpkin pies, nuts, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, and beans that are savored too on the day. 

Thanksgiving Day is a celebration for North America, and South America has yet to become familiar with it. Canada and Liberia have their own Thanksgiving, which is celebrated on October’s second Monday and the first Thursday in November respectively. 

All and all, Thanksgiving Day is about celebrating the blessing around you, showing gratitude, and appreciating your loved ones. So next time you see a turkey being roasted in a famous show, you’ll know why it is being relished so much!