Why we give thanks at Thanksgiving

BUCKHANNON — With Thanksgiving a few sleeps away, it is important to remember the origin of the holiday and how important it is to give thanks.

In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag shared a harvest feast that is known today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. However, it wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.

The feast that Americans still partake in once looked very different. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Due to the Pilgrims having no oven and the Mayflower’s dwindling sugar supply, the meal did not feature pies, cakes, or other desserts, which have become a staple of modern-day dinners.

During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year. In 1789, George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by way of the national government of the United States. In it, Washington called upon Americans to express their gratitude, or give thanks, for the conclusion of the war and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution.

In many American households today, the Thanksgiving celebration has lost much of its original religious significance. Instead, the holiday now centers on cooking and sharing a meal with family and friends. Turkey, which is a Thanksgiving staple, may or may not have been on the table when the Pilgrims hosted the initial harvest feast back in 1621.

According to the National Turkey Federation, nearly 90 percent of Americans eat turkey in many different ways, whether roasted, baked, or deep-fried. Other traditional foods include stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Volunteering is also a common Thanksgiving Day activity, and communities often hold food drives and host free dinners for the less fortunate.

This year in Buckhannon, a couple area organizations are taking an extra step in helping struggling families. Upshur Cooperative Parish House handed out Thanksgiving food baskets throughout the week in preparation for the big holiday. Chapel Hill United Methodist Church will be giving take-out meals starting at 6 p.m. on Thursday. The church invites everyone to come as they do their part to help the community through trying times.

Although there is a large history behind the origins of Thanksgiving Day, use the chance to give thanks for the year and the loved ones around you. If you have any questions regarding the meal offered at Chapel Hill, please call (304)-472-6904.


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