The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by Native Americans dating back to the 16th century, and according to some accounts it was a feast celebrating a bountiful harvest of crops.
The most widely known original Thanksgiving is that of the Pilgrims with the Wampanoag Native Americans. The feast lasted for three days.
Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national holiday in 1863, when Sarah Hale sent a letter to President Abraham Lincoln petitioning that the fourth Thursday of November be set aside to give thanks for our many blessings. Hale is known in some circles as the Godmother of Thanksgiving. Lincoln proclaimed that Thanksgiving would be celebrated that first year in 1863.
Today, Americans kick off the the holiday season with Thanksgiving.
A traditional Thanksgiving dinner often includes turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, cornbread, cranberry sauce and green bean casserole. Dorthy Campbell of the Rocky Fork Lake area said her “mother gave her the recipe for green bean casserole, and she has passed it down to her daughter.”
Ninety percent of U.S. residents eat turkey for Thanksgiving, according to at least one account. Back in the 1830s, turkey was considered a treat because the cost of a turkey was a day’s wages. Popular pies for Thanksgiving are pumpkin, sweet potato, apple and pecan.
Many families travel for Thanksgiving by plane, train or car.
Jordan Freeze’s family travels the week of Thanksgiving or the weekend after to get family Christmas trees. Freeze is the Freeze said her father would travel to North Carolina or Tennessee to get specific Fraser firs. The trees come in different colors and textures because of the altitude and climate in the mountains. He wanted different colors and textures to make sure the wreaths would lay just right.
Now that her father is gone, Freeze, her mother, her sister, and her daughter, Hannah Hopkins, carry on the tradition.
Many families will turn on Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which begin in 1879, on Thanksgiving morning. Families may gather together to watch or play football or watch a favorite movie. They may go for a walk, go bike riding, take a nap, or play board or other games.
The Snyder family of Leesburg have a white elephant gift exchange after Thanksgiving dinner. Family members bring gifts, usually items they have around their homes. Everyone gets a number and when their number is called they chose a gift or steal one from another family member.
Thanksgiving is often based on family values and gratitude, but if your family members live far away or you don’t have any, some enjoy dinner or socializing with friends. A small group of individuals from the Cedarwoods Apartments in Hillsboro hold a “Friendsgiving” dinner every year.
People can practice gratitude by volunteering at a food bank, donating to a coat drive, or spending some time with seniors or shut-ins in the community. Maybe your family could start a Thanksgiving journal or write down something they are thankful for and make a wreath or a tablecloth.
Many families begin decorating for Christmas as a Thanksgiving tradition, such as the Campbell family. The Snyder family ends their Thanksgiving night listening to Christmas carols. Their grandfather put a tape together of all the songs they listened to while they were growing up.
However, you spend your Thanksgiving, enjoy the day and be thankful for your blessings.
Sources for this story include the Farmers Almanac, Good Housekeeping and Kids National Geographic.
Jackie Wolgamott is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.