The history and significance of the Thanksgiving holiday in the USA are often buried amidst a flurry of bargain-hunting and shopping, feasting and football, parades and vacations, partying and - at the White House - pardoning at least one lucky turkey. But what's it all about (really), Alfie?
I'll be participating in much of the aforementioned revelry (and hope you will, too). However, it's also important to me to give thanks (which I'll do offline) as well as to commemorate the reason for the season (which inspired this post).
The image above is a 1911 illustration of Tisquantum ("Squanto") teaching the Plymouth colonists to plant maize with fish. I swiped it from the Wikipedia article "Squanto", which profiles the Patuxet tribesman who assisted the Pilgrims after their first winter in the New World and was integral to their survival.* I trust this image is more historically accurate than this one.
The Wikipedia article, "Thanksgiving (United States)", in conjunction with its citations and linked articles, does a decent job of summarizing the holiday's antecedents; the pilgrims' first Thanksgiving celebration in America (commonly traced to Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts in 1621); the evolution of the holiday's meaning, traditions, and menus over time; the associated controversy; and the holiday's treatment in popular media. President Obama provides another, briefer reminder of the holiday's roots in his Presidential Proclamation -- Thanksgiving Day, 2014.
Those familiar with the history of the Thanksgiving holiday in the USA and with current events in this country might find the following juxtaposition ironic: the first Thanksgiving in the United States was celebrated by immigrant pilgrims seeking freedom from (religious) persecution in their homeland and the Native Americans who helped them survive in the New World. In contrast, the lead headline and its slug at WhiteHouse.gov this Thanksgiving Day in 2014 read:
America’s immigration system is broken. The President is taking executive action to fix what he can to help build a system that lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.
* [Image Source: Bricker, Garland Armor. (1911). The Teaching of Agriculture in the High School. New York: Macmillan. Page 112. Owner: The German Kali Works, New York. Permission: Public domain in USA.]