The Origins of Thanksgiving
It´s Thanksgiving Day in the USA, a day which was almost unknown to many of us here in Europe until recently. Suddenly turkey sales have mushroomed over the last few years and any reputable hipster café would not be without pumpkin pie and spiced pumpkin lattes at this time of year.
Adding to the love for all things American, except Donald Trump, most European newspapers run a story on the origins of Thanksgiving, citing undocumented Thanksgiving dinners with Pilgrims and Native Americans. However, in actual fact it was not quite the Disney, love-all sharing feast that we want to believe but can be traced back to a sparsely documented 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts, and also to a well recorded 1619 event in Virginia. The 1621 turkey free Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest and quite understandably was not attended by Native Americans. Pilgrims and Puritans who began emigrating from England in the 1620s and 1630s carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them to New England. The 1619 arrival of 38 English settlers at Berkeley Hundred in Charles City County, Virginia, concluded with a religious celebration as dictated by the group’s charter from the London Company, which specifically required «that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned … in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.»
Despite these religious origins however, the modern celebration of Thanksgiving is essentially American and demonstrates the capacity this country has to transform humble origins into one of the biggest secular soirees around. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Enjoy your pumpkin spiced latte!