The roots of the holiday lay root in English traditions from the protestant reformation (late 16th century-ish). Where blessings from god called for days of Thanksgiving, while punishments from god called for days of Fasting. However, Wikipedia also said that it also has a root in thanking for the harvest that year. It probably is a combination of both. For the rest of this article I am focussing on the USA thanksgiving as it is also celebrated in Canada, Brazil, and even Leiden according to Wikipedia (correct me if I am wrong).
The first USA thanksgiving was held by emigrated English pilgrims in 1621 in which the pilgrims celebrated the good harvest with the native Americans which helped them get through the previous winter by giving them food. However, as most of you know did the friendly cooperation between the natives and the European settlers not last that long. In the 1630’s a native was accused of killing a white man, which led to rage and hundreds of natives were killed. After which Governor Bradford proclaimed that Thanksgiving from then on would be celebrating “the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won”. After this churches/people at power would self-proclaim days of Thanksgiving themselves. After the American Revolution several presidents also proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving, although not on a set day. In 1817 Thanksgiving became an annual holiday in some states. With the lobby of writer Sarah Josepha Hale (mother of Thanksgiving) Abraham Lincoln finally (in 1863) initiated Thanksgiving as a national holiday, held at the final Thursday in November. Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third week of November in an attempt to spur sales during the great depression. However, due to backlash this only lasted for 2 years after which Thanksgiving was again on the fourth Thursday of November.
The current celebration of Thanksgiving has not much to do with its original source, the celebration of harvest. Nowadays it is more surrounded by cooking, sharing this with family and friends, and standing still by all the things we are thankful for which is kind of a great thing in this world where everything moves so fast and you forget that sometimes.
So what should be present at the Thanksgiving table?
◾ A turkey of course (Why?? As Governor Bradford (you know the governor of the first Thanksgiving) wrote in his journal how colonists hunted wild turkey, and the fact that the turkey is a uniquely American bird. This journal was republished a few years before Thanksgiving was declared as a national holiday.)
◾ Stuffing (which is not stuffed inside the turkey so it is a bit of a weird name)
◾ Mashed potatoes
◾ Cranberry sauce
◾ Sweet potato casserole (the one with marshmallows, sounds disgusting to me as it is served as a side dish next to the turkey…..)
◾ Green bean/brussels sprout casserole
◾ Some kind of soup
◾ Some kind of bready thing
◾ Pumpkin pie (As dessert if you are still hungry after devouring all the things above….)
◾ Lots of alcohol (As you are at home with the whole family and a mother stressing about whether or not everything will be done in time etc.)