Thanksgiving: Born in New England – An American Tradition

It’s hard to tell that winter is just around the bend as Boston and New England have been experiencing what some would call “balmy” weather (with the exception of the Halloween snow storm!) Regardless of the weather, scents of pumpkin spice and gingerbread waft through the air as you pass by coffee shops and the buzz and excitement of the holiday season is upon us.

Here at NXTevent, we thought we would share the history of this great New England tradition, and on Thursday, November 24, we will be sharing in our own holiday traditions with family and friends.

Thanksgiving: Born in New England – An American Tradition

(In 2011, Thursday, November 24)

A beloved American holiday, Thanksgiving is a time to share thanks with family, friends, and vistors and remember just what we have to be grateful for. Today’s Thanksgiving includes NFL football and the famous Macy parades as well as opens the “shopping extravaganzas” across American malls and online stores, plus a lot of feasting, resting, feasting, resting. Almost all the same was true in 1621, sans the modern day amenities, electronics, and sports, when the Pilgrims of Plymouth on Cape Cod celebrated their bountiful harvest and good fortune.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as an American holiday, a movement that started by the Continental Congress as far back as the American Revolution. Nearly 100 years later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt then officially set the day for Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday of November.

The First Thanksgiving by the Colonists of Plimouth

(Sources: History Channel & Kathleen Curtin, Food Historian at Plimoth Plantation)

In 1621, the colonists of Plimouth (Cape Cod) and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast which is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. This harvest meal has become a symbol of cooperation and interaction between English colonists and Native Americans. Although this feast is considered by many to the very first Thanksgiving celebration, it was actually in keeping with a long tradition of celebrating the harvest and giving thanks for a successful bounty of crops. Native American groups throughout the Americas, including the Pueblo, Cherokee, Creek and many others organized harvest festivals, ceremonial dances, and other celebrations of thanks for centuries before the arrival of Europeans in North America.

Interestingly, historians have also recorded additional celebrations of thanks among European settlers in North America. Whether at Plymouth, or throughout the new world of the Americas, the heritage of thanks, and particularly of the legacy of the ceremonial feast, have survived the centuries as people throughout the United States gather family, friends, and enormous amounts of food for their yearly Thanksgiving meal.

 The Menu

 Today, our Thanksgiving menus are full banquets. A must is the traditional turkey, roasted or fried depending on your taste, served with mashed potatoes and a little personal flair, as well as green bean casserole, sweet potatos and a slew of pie. As diverse as America is today, its general population are likely to blend in some regional influences and ethnic heritage from sides dishes to the main course. Not unlike where it all began 400+ years ago.

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Truth be told, the only two items identified in history records that were on the menu are venison and wild fowl. Edward Winslow details and describes the “First Thanksgiving” from A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, in 1621:

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

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Here are some of the NXTevent team’s favorite parts of Thanksgiving! Martha loves the smell of turkey and stuffing roasting in the oven and finds this time of year a great time to give thanks and reflect peacefully on the year gone by. Toni takes on the incredible task of pie making – she cooks everyone’s favorite pies! Her record is 21 pies from scratch which includes Apple, Banana Cream, Pecan, Blueberry and Pumpkin which she then delivers to all of her family members! She also finds it’s a good time to start addressing her Christmas cards to get ahead of the game! Ally spends time with family and friends, usually preparing a thanksgiving feast with an open house feel, but this year she heads to Brooklyn to visit with her brother and family. While there, she and her family will experience the newly opened 911 Memorial as well as a trip to Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty, all in thanks and memoriam to those who have served, those who have emigrated, and the heritage of our nation.

What’s your favorite part of Thanksgiving and the holidays?

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