Modern thanks

By on November 17, 2004

What if someone told you that you had to eat deer for thanksgiving instead of turkey this year? Or that you could not have mashed potatoes, or pumpkin pie? If you lived in colonial times, when the first Thanksgiving occurred, this is exactly what would have been said.

In 1621, Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians took part in a feast that is now known as the first Thanksgiving. However, the celebration of this holiday has come a long way since that first feast. The traditions, foods, and even the date of Thanksgiving have changed to suit more modern times.

The only two foods that historians are certain were on the table in 1621 were venison (deer meat) and wild fowl, which are a far cry from the turkey that is an important part of most dinners today.

Also, since the Pilgrims came by way of the Mayflower, fresh fruits and vegetable were very limited. As a result, it is unlikely that they enjoyed mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, or anything sweet like pumpkin or apple pie.

Historians believe that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated sometime between Sept. 21 and Nov. 11, unlike our current holiday which is observed on the fourth Thursday of November. The date was instated by Franklin D. Roosevelt and is thought to coincide with the landing of the Mayflower.

Contrary to popular belief, Thanksgiving was not considered a holiday after its first celebration. It only happened once. And it was not even called Thanksgiving. The title and tradition of celebrating the holiday every year did not start until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln officially declared it a national holiday.

In colonial times, Adults sat down to the meal first while children and servants waited on them, an extinct practice today. Everyone likes to “dig in” when the food is served, but those early diners had to do it with their bare hands since there were no utensils, let alone forks, back then.

Today many eat a “traditional” Thanksgiving meal.

“[For Thanksgiving] I go to my grandma’s house with my whole family,” said sophomore Sarah Grady, “We have turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes…we’re a pretty generic family.”

While some get together with large, extended families, other have smaller gatherings.

“I usually fly home to Miami and have a small dinner since I don’t have much family in Florida,” said sophomore Max Winitz.

Some people also have special holiday traditions.

“We make chestnuts and watch the Thanksgiving Day parade together,” said senior Andrew Chin.

Despite its many differences, Thanksgiving still holds some of its original qualities. For example, most people eat their meal earlier in the today in keeping with the original feast that was served around noon time. The original purpose for the celebration also remains as a day to give thanks and share a good meal with friends and family.


About Dana Owen