Today begins the long Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. (Canada celebrates it earlier.) Technically on Thursday, many households begin preparations today as relatives from distant places begin their traveling to the Thanksgiving home. For many Americans this has become a bigger holiday than Christmas and other end-of-the-year celebrations, which are considered more religious than familial.
In both Canada and the U.S. the holiday is characterized by copious amounts of food featuring seasonal recipes and lots of sweets. The traditional meat served at the feast is turkey.
The holiday originates with the first permanent settlers to the New World, people who called themselves “pilgrims” who were fleeing England’s restrictive laws on religion. They arrived the northeast coast of America between 1620 and 1621.
They faired poorly in the beginning until two local native Americans, Wampanoags of the Algonkian-speaking clans, both of whom spoke English (because one of them had previously traveled to England in 1605) befriended the settlers. The “Indians” taught the pilgrims how to farm and build homesteads, and the summer planting season was so successful that the pilgrims invited the Indians to a “Thanksgiving” harvest dinner in November, 1621.
Click here for much more information about the history and meaning of Thanksgiving by a native American school teacher, who dispels not only the myths about the “primitiveness” of native Americans, but also about the pilgrims’ history and beliefs.