Thanksgiving Day — A Harvest Celebration

By Bobbie Sweeney
 People all over the world set aside at least one day of the year to celebrate the harvest of the land. In America, one of the first celebrations of this kind was initiated by the Pilgrims. ln 1621, they held a three-day festival by order of the Governor of the Colony, William Bradford. The Indians who had become their friends were invited to join the Pilgrims in their celebration.
 Throughout the eastern part of North America, harvest festivals became an annual custom during the month of November. It was not until 1789 that George Washington proclaimed Nov. 26 as the first national day of Thanksgiving. However, the entire nation did not accept the idea until President Lincoln proclaimed a national harvest festival in 1863. From then on, Thanksgiving Day has been an annual holiday in the United States.
 The reasons for celebrating on this day are basically the same as they were at the time the Pilgrims had their first feast. Families and friends gather together to give thanks for the blessings they have enjoyed all year long.
 Wild turkeys roamed the eastern coast at the time the Pilgrims settled here, and turkey was one of the main dishes served at their feast. Because of the abundance of wild turkey, they became a staple diet for the Pilgrims.
 Long before the Pilgrims settled on American soil, the Indians had used turkeys not only as a food source but also as a means of keeping warm, using their feathers for making cloaks and blankets. The Indians trimmed their arrows with turkey feathers and used the sharp spurs of the male turkey as arrow tips. Indian hunters made blow guns and darts, to kill their prey, from turkey bones.
 The Pilgrims cooked other foods for their feast that had been their harvest for the year. Cranberries, pumpkin, corn and chestnuts were made into sauces, pies, puddings and stuffing for the turkey. While turkey became the traditional meat to be served on Thanksgiving Day, cranberries, pumpkin, etc. became traditional side dishes at the meal.
 Thanksgiving Day brings pleasant memories of years gone by to all of us. And we have the Pilgrims to thank for starting this joyous festival in our country.

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