From the Pilgrims to the Present
In 1620 a group of English Protestant separatists set sail across the Atlantic to settle in a “new world.” Intent on landing in what is now New York City, instead the ship carrying 101 men, women and children made ground on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. After 66 days of rough seas, the Puritans began to prepare for the coming winter by gathering what they could from the land surrounding their encampment – and from the Native Americans. Instead of warring with the new arrivals, a Wampanoag leader who knew English taught the settlers to grow corn and use fish to fertilize the fields. After several meetings, a formal agreement was reached between the parties and they joined forces to protect each other from other tribes.
The following fall, the Wampanoag visited the settlement for a harvest celebration. For three days the immigrants and 90 native men, women and children played games, sang, danced and ate a meal together that consisted of corn, shellfish and roasted meats.
Today, we honor that first celebration on the fourth Thursday of every November. While some of our traditions harken back to that original gathering, many families have introduced their own. Here are some of the more common traditions we Americans associate with Thanksgiving:
Travel – While most of us don’t cross an ocean to find our reason to be thankful, many do travel long distances to be with friends and family. In fact, “turkey day” is the busiest travel day of the year.
The Feast – While the turkey has become the centerpiece of the meal, other favorites include stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, pies and cranberry sauce.
The Wishbone – Two people grab hold of the turkey breastbone, make a wish and pull. And as every kid knows, the person with the larger piece is said to receive their request.
The Turkey Pardon – Since 1989, every year the President of the United States has officially pardoned a live turkey, allowing the bird to live out the rest of its life, likely at Mount Vernon.
Charity – There’s no better time to be mindful of those less fortunate than on a day of such abundance. Many families choose Thanksgiving Day to volunteer for those in need.
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