What is Thanksgiving, anyway?

We all heard about Thanksgiving, right? In American movies families get together and eat turkey, stuffing, pie and give thanks. Uhhuh. But what is it all about?

Well, I’m about to spend my second Thanksgiving in the USA. Last year my first host family took me to New York city to spend some time at Grandma’s. Sitting at the table, everyone said something that they are thankful for. The little girl I took care of the time said she was thankful for Mommy, Daddy and her cats. Then we had dinner and chatted for a while, then everyone went to bed. As Thanksgiving is coming up next week, it made me look into the Holiday a little deeper to find out what it is really about.

The History of Thanksgiving

„In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River.

Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.

In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days.” 200 years later it became an official Holiday,  (http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving)


Thanksgiving menu

Thanksgiving is not really about religion anymore and we don’t celebrate the harvest, either. It is more about cooking and spending nice time with family and friends.

„While no record exists of the historic banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations.”

Nowadays, a ’traditional’ Thanksgiving dinner looks like this:
-roasted, deep-fried or baked turkey
-mashed potatoes
-cranberry sauce


The other nice Thanksgiving tradition besides cooking is volunteering and helping the least fortunate. It’s very easy to find a place to volunteer at so if you’re free next Thursday, call some friends and head down to the church or soup kitchen.

Although, I’m not American, I like the idea of Thanksgiving. There are other stories of Thanksgiving’s origin and I understand it can be very confusing to decide whether you want to celebrate other people’s bad fate. I, personally think of Thanksgiving as a nice Holiday I can show my cooking knowledge and make my family happy.

As a Thanksgiving tradition, people usually say what they are thankful for. I am thankful for a lot of things, but mostly for the most loving and understanding parents, the best partner someone could ever wish for and being appreciated by a nice host family I can spend my second year with.

What are you thankful for?

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