A History on Thanksgiving


Katie Bilka, Editor in Chief

Every year, millions of families gather on the fourth Thursday in November for the nationally-recognized holiday Thanksgiving. Many people usually look forward to Thanksgiving festivities-whether it be the delicious food or quality time spent together. Many memories are made and reflected upon during this holiday. However, many people aren’t sure of when these traditions came to be or how they’ve changed over the years.
The first official Thanksgiving dates back to 1621 in Plymouth with the Pilgrims and Wampanoag people. An article from plimoth.org on the history of Thanksgiving says, “When their labors were rewarded with a bountiful harvest after a year of sickness and scarcity, the Pilgrims gave thanks to God and celebrated His bounty in the Harvest Home tradition with feasting and sport.” As the years went on, though, the Continental Congress deemed the first national Thanksgiving in 1777. Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of infamous women’s magazine Godey’s Lady Book, was one of the main advocates for Thanksgiving becoming a national holiday. It wasn’t until 1863 when she fully convinced President Lincoln “that a national Thanksgiving might serve to unite a war-torn country.” Despite the success with President Lincoln, the article goes on to say that “the holiday [was still not a] fixed annual event…a president still had to proclaim Thanksgiving each year, and the last Thursday in November became the customary date.”
As the holiday continued on its journey, the topic of talk became ‘what types of food do we serve?’ The same article from Plimouth says that the all-time favorite Thanksgiving menu of turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie, and root vegetables was based on New England fall harvests. “As the holiday spread across the country, local cooks modified the menu by ‘this is what we like to eat’ and ‘this is what we have to eat’”. This revolution inspired many more new dishes during the Thanksgiving meal, including desserts. For example, Indiana’s favorite dessert is persimmon pudding. In the south, corn, sweet potatoes, ham, pies, puddings, corn breads and pork are among the most popular dishes. Southerners are big on desserts, so regional cakes, pies, puddings, and cobblers are present.
No matter how you celebrate Thanksgiving or what you eat for the meal, it’s important to know how each tradition started. I hope this brief article can give some insight on how these traditions have grown since the beginning.

For more information on the Native American culture and history, see this story written by Liana Boulles last year: https://ghspantherpress.org/1548/opinion/how-to-really-honor-native-americans-on-thanksgiving/

This is a picture of persimmon pudding, the most favored dessert in Indiana.