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The Real History Of Thanksgiving

Celebrating the legacy of Thanksgiving and of giving thanks

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.

Let’s remember our ancestors and give them thanks for everything they left us behind. Let’s be inspired by their persistence and be in awe of their courage and determination.


Take for instance, the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. For hundreds of years, under the colonisation of the Dutch, native Africans were enslaved. With such a long history of racial discrimination, it wasn’t easy for these natives to break free from their bondage. Even when South Africa became an independent country, the political party that took over the reins created separate rights for the whites and the blacks, thereby creating an apartheid government. Thus, the non-whites living in Africa were left with no choice but to oppose this injustice. Of course, it took them a while before they could form an organised resistance against this exploitation. It started with anti-apartheid leaders organising protests and campaigns like boycotting imported goods and refusing to pay rents or taxes. Infuriated by non-cooperation, the government went harder on the protesters—many of them were jailed, several killed or severely injured. Slowly but surely, over the course of several decades, the African natives achieved their well-deserved freedom, and the United Nations finally abolished apartheid.

The Indian independence movement is a similar story. The British East India Company started off as a business entity, but slowly spread its wings of influence, taking control of the entire country. Native Indians were discriminated against, which caused dissatisfaction and unrest. Predictably, it was not long before the natives from all walks of life revolted against the British government. But as more and more people started revolting, a platform was created to unify people, to instil a spirit of nationality and bridge divides amongst people based on caste and religion. Coordinating all protests and revolts against the British government, this platform ensured that campaigns became more focused and powerful. To begin with, British goods were boycotted, and British jobs, titles and honours were forsaken. Eventually, a more aggressive ‘Quit India Movement’ was launched. Testing the grit of common folk as well as freedom fighters, this movement resulted in many national leaders and freedom fighters getting arrested, killed or injured. But after a long struggle, when this movement finally came to an end, the British government was uprooted from the Indian soil.

Today, times are different. Our lives, rights, privileges and future are far more stable and safe. Though war and strife are far from eliminated from the world, there are more diplomatic, peaceful, reasonable solutions we can seek; though we may not have managed to obliterate discrimination, there is more awareness and more opportunities to take the initiative to reduce it. These are some of the milestones our ancestors achieved before they handed over the world to us. Now, it may be a while before we further better the world handed down to us. Until then, let’s remember our ancestors and give them thanks for everything they left us behind. Let’s be inspired by their persistence and be in awe of their courage and determination. For ahead of us lie many such milestones waiting to be touched. With the power to rewrite the course of mankind’s journey, these milestones give us reasons to continue our ancestors’ journey and leave behind legacies for the children of tomorrow.

2 Comments
  • Krishna Dutt
    November 23, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    Thanks giving also another form of expressing gratitude towards people. This creates humbleness and bonding too which makes our journey to life much more easy and happy. Very well knitted and informative article is written. Very useful and inspiring.

  • Soulveda
    Soulveda
    November 23, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    Thank you for those encouraging words, Krishna.

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