Why Do We Celebrate Thanksgiving Day
Do you know what Thanksgiving Day is? You may have heard about it, but don’t know what it is or why is it celebrated. Well, let me explain all of this in detail. Thanksgiving Day is observed and celebrated on the 4th Thursday of the November month. This day is celebrated throughout the length and breadth of United States. Impressed by the way of its celebration, other countries have also started to celebrate this day.
The celebration of this day started back in 1789. But, it became a federal holiday from 1864 after President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation. Amidst a Civil War in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that a Thanksgiving Day will be held on the third Thursday of November, which will be a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” But in the year 1865, Thanksgiving Day was celebrated on the First Thursday of November. It is because, the then President, Andrew Johnson decided it to be celebrated on that day. Although, in some years, the Thursday on which Thanksgiving Day was changed sometimes, but mostly it was celebrated on the 4th Thursday of the November.
The reason behind the celebration of the Thanksgiving Day is not limited to just one. There are many, let us discuss all the possible reasons:
1. Harvest Feasts:
In general, the celebration of this day is observed to give thanks for the yield of the previous harvest. This vision of the Thanksgiving is considered by some as the mythic vision of the Thanksgiving. The whole story elaborated is as such. With about 102 passengers, Mayflower left England and landed in a New World. It took over three months to reach Plymouth (Massachusetts). The journey was very harsh for the Pilgrims and even some were killed by the dreadful winter. The harsh winter conditions in New England forced them to live on the boat and it is only in the spring that they were able to emerge as severely crippled.
Slowly, with the assistance of the Native Americans, they learned to make their land productive. There was a person Squanto, who taught Pilgrims all about how to sow the fields, how to identify which plants are poisonous and which are not, and much more. With the assistance of Squanto, the Pilgrims were able to forge an alliance with Wampanoag Confederacy. When they successfully had a corn harvest in 1621, the Pilgrims invited Wampanoag Indians for a three-day feast to celebrate their achievement and giving thanks for the support. In this celebration, they included only the feasts prepared from field yields and nothing else.
So, some Americans consider the origin of the Thanksgiving Day as such. But this was highly debated by historians. Historians debate that such thanksgiving feasts were already organized many a time around the world by then. Some even say that similar feasts were organized by Pedro Menendez de Aviles of Florida in 1565, and in 1619 British settlers celebrated it in Virginia. So, if the celebration of the harvest is the main reason or not, it is highly debatable.
2. To Thank God for Everything:
The Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day each year, to thank the Almighty God for all the things that he give us, including his blessings and mercies. To prove that this is a major reason, there is much evidence. If you look back in the history of America, you will find that the Congress of US had proclaimed Thanksgiving Day as National Day on many occasions, but all the time the major motto of the Thanksgiving was same in its essence. Let’s understand it by the chronology of events that happened:
> On Nov. 1, 1777, the 1st ever National Thanksgiving Proclamation was signed by Henry Laurens (who was the then President of the Continental Congress). He observed the 3rd Thursday of December as the Official Thanksgiving Day and he proclaimed in the essence that this day is reserved for solemn thanksgiving to the God. On this day good people may express their feeling of gratefulness to the God.
On Jan. 1, 1795, the first President of the United States, George Washington, gave the ‘National Thanksgiving Proclamation’ in which he reminded people of their duty towards God. He inspired people to consider it as a duty to acknowledge our obligation to the Almighty God and to implore Him to confirm that we experience his blessings for very long or always.
George Washington observed the 19th Day of February as the Thanksgiving Day in the year 1795.
>When Abraham Lincoln was President, he also made a Proclamation and announced the last Thursday of the November as the National Thanksgiving Day. He made this proclamation on October 3, 1863. He said that this is the day to Praise our beneficent Father who lives in heaven. He expected that on the Thanksgiving Day, the citizens of his country should reverently, gratefully and solemnly acknowledge the Almighty God with one voice.
Thus all of this proves that Thanksgiving Day’s major motto is to remember the Almighty God and show our gratitude to him in one way or the other.
3. Homage and respect to the dead (A Day of Mourning)
If we see the other perspective, this day has some bloody roots. In colonial times, this day was observed as an official day to give thanks for the safe return of the militia after they had massacred more than 650 Pequots. In this massacre, many elders, children’s and women were slain. So some organizations consider and celebrate it as a National Day of Mourning to honor the Native ancestors.
In the US schools, children are being taught that this Thanksgiving Day is celebrated as a gesture of gratitude. On this day, Pilgrims invited the Native Americans for the first Thanksgiving feast to show their gratitude for the help they received from the Native American. But the concept of ‘Native American’ being taught in the schools is actually inaccurate to some extent and potentially damaging.
Let us go through the whole story again and give you the concept of ‘Native American’ in the right context. Plymouth, before the arrival of the Pilgrims, was a Pawtuxet village, which was plagued for five years before the arrival of the pilgrims. These Native people came in touch with the Europeans before the arrival of the pilgrims.
Amongst these European people was a person known as Captain Thomas Hunt. He started trading with the Native people in 1614. There, the cruel Thomas captured about 18 Pawtuxcts and 7 Nugassets and sold them in Spain. The Native people also got lured by many other European Expeditions and were then enslaved and imprisoned. Such expeditions brought smallpox, measles etc. to this continent. As a result, the Native people having no immunity started to get severely ill and died. After about 100 years their number in the village reduced by nearly 80%. It totally deserted the Pawtnxt. The other nearest people were Wampanoag. They were the Indians who met the Pilgrim invasion.
The people in the Wampanoag were simply hunters and farmers. The Pilgrims came to Wampanoag as a part of the commercial venture. It is wrongly mentioned in the history that Pilgrims came in the search for religious freedom. They already got the religious freedom in Holland and came to Wampanoag purely for the commercial venture. The first thing that these pilgrims did after arriving at the Cape Cod and before reaching the Plymouth is, they robbed Wampanoag graves and stole the Native Indians’ winter stores. The Native people considered the robbing of the grave as an insult to their ancestors. To take the revenge, they attacked the Pilgrims when they were working in the fields. The pilgrims ran away from the field leaving their tools behind. The Natives took their tools and returned. But it happened so that, a person named ‘Samoset’ who was considered a Native returned and approached the Pilgrims with a ‘Welcome’ and he promised them to return all their tools if they make an alliance with Massasoit (who was the leader of the Wampanoag people).
The Pilgrims readily agreed and when Samoset returned with Massasoit and Squanto, Pilgrims presented them with gifts and said that their king, King James wants to make an alliance with Massasoit (This was false). So Massasoit agreed and signed a treaty in favor of Pilgrims and they both agreed that in case of any attack they will stand with each other. But this treaty was broken in 1671 when Massasoit’s son Metacomet was forced to sign a treaty in which he was asked to subject his people to the English people who came to take the reign there. The 4 successive years which followed the treaty were calm, but war broke out in 1675. Many innocent Wampanoag’s were killed in the war. Metacom was also beheaded in this war and his head was kept on a pole at Plymouth. The present Wampanoag can never forget that. They consider it as a ‘Day of Mourning’ for them.
Since 1970, the Native Americans gather at Cole’s Hill to commemorate the loss and a National Day of Mourning on the same day when other celebrate US Thanksgiving Day. These Native American do not celebrate the arrival of the European settlers and the Pilgrims. The day in itself reminds them of the loot, genocide and an assault on their treasured culture. On this day, the Participants of the Mourning day honor and remember the struggles of their Native ancestors.
Now, you have got all the information needed as well as the different opinions about the reason behind this Day’s celebration. You can read some other text also in this context. There is no proved sure reason for its celebration, so have to form your own opinion for that. The only true story related to the Thanksgiving is of the ‘Plymouth Plantation’. But I am sure of the fact that there would always have been many stories for as long as the human race is alive. Beginning about 10000 years ago, in the New Stone Age, Thanksgiving became associated with the good harvest season, which prompted the growers of the crop to pray and praise the God for endowing them with so much of blessing and mercy. For some, it is a day of spiritual connection and remembrance, while for some others it a day to morn and protest racism.
So the reasons are many, but deciding about which is true is very difficult. But why to delve more into the reasons? Instead, why should we not concentrate on the good reasons for celebrating Thanksgiving Day? The celebration of Thanksgiving is very awesome. Ranging from a chance to eat a variety of foods to enjoy the gift of fellowship, the reasons are many. There are two main reasons for which I wanted to celebrate this day:
1. As a celebration of Gratitude:
Do you know that the attitude of gratitude can empower you with a supercharged mind and body? Gratitude is simply the quality of being thankful. When you express gratitude to someone, it now only makes them happier, but you also feel equally happy. Gratitude helps emotion. Emotions control our being. When we express gratitude, it increases the good-feeling and helps to shift the personality from ego-centered to lovely and optimistic being, who is capable to love others more than he loves himself.
2. As a celebration of Togetherness:
Do you know that Wednesday which comes just before the official Thanksgiving Day is one of the most intense travel days in the US because everyone tries to reunite with their family and friends on that day? The Friday just after the Thanksgiving is called the Black Friday on which you get the best shopping deals. It is all planned to gather people together so that they can enjoy and share the gift with one another to treasure lifetime memories. Isn’t it exciting to catch up with old friends or a separated family member?
Enjoying any Day is more important than knowing the reason about why to enjoy. Look good in everything and you will get good. Thanksgiving Day is soon approaching and we wish that you enjoy it as the happiest day full of enjoyment and gratitude.