It’s that time of year again when North America celebrates thanksgiving. The front porches and mantelpieces of houses are decorated with fall leaves, pumpkins and rustic décor artefacts. Elaborate feasts are cooked in every home which include the traditional roast stuffed turkey, pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes. Family and friends visit from various parts of the world to celebrate the day together. Although making merry is an integral part of thanksgiving, the festival itself is much more than family dinners and gatherings. It is a day to remember our ancestors for all they’ve done for us; a day to be thankful for the legacies they’ve left behind, and the legacies which have rewritten the course of history.
So how did Thanksgiving come to be? And why is it celebrated in America? It all started when a group of colonists left the Great Britain in search of home in the new world many centuries ago. They wanted to break free from the rules of the church and practice their faith in peace. After an arduous sail that lasted several weeks, the Pilgrims, as they are commonly referred to as today, decided to settle down in a place called Plymouth in the present-day Massachusetts in the USA. When the Pilgrims moved ashore, they received a friendly visit from the Native Indians who then taught the immigrants how to plant corn, smoke and dry indigenous meat, and identify poisonous herbs and berries. A year later, when the newcomer’s first harvest was bountiful, they organised a celebratory feast and invited their Native American friends to join in. This is remembered as America’s first Thanksgiving.
Over a course of time, however, life became turbulent for British colonists (not just the Pilgrims) who started settling down in the US. On one hand, they were rebelling against England whose rule was overshadowing their freedom even in their new home. And on the other, they were battling several other Native American tribes who were wary of more and more migrants entering their country, and rightly so. Many decades of wars and battles ensued before stability was restored. The colonists finally declared themselves an independent country, signed peace treaties with the native Americans, and established a democratic government of the United States of America.
Rightfully, Thanksgiving is, hence, an American tradition. It is the story of how America came into being. But in the era of the internet and social media, thanksgiving has not just remained an American phenomenon but has become a global one. And so, one might want to assume that no matter our nationality or race, thanksgiving is a time to give thanks to our ancestors and for our legacies. It is a time to acknowledge their persistence and endurance whilst toiling hard to secure the lives of future generations. After all, every land has seen war and struggle of various kinds. Every country has had milestone events which changed the course of its future.