Thanksgiving is only a few days away! The holiday has come to represent a time of being grateful for the good things in life, food, and family. It is also a holiday that has a history filled with uncertainty and no small amount of controversy. Here are the hard facts about Thanksgiving:
-The primary evidence for the “first Thanksgiving” in Plymouth, MA is scanty, a whole two sources that give us the very basics. There was a feast that lasted for three days and plenty of food, the Plymouth Colony members enjoyed recreations, and there were around 90 Wampanoag men there including one of their leaders Massasoit. And that’s really about it.
-There are a lot of people out there who contradict the traditional “Pilgrims and Native Americans sat down and ate together and were friends!” And rightly so. The politics of the time between the Plymouth Colony and the Wampanoag were complex. Due to the nature of the Internet, however, even the justifiable arguments have spread and mutated into strongly held beliefs without much evidence. Scholar Jeremy Bangs wrote an exhaustive article going through all of the various websites claiming to debunk the myths of Thanksgiving. He doesn’t set down any conclusions, but the article is an interesting, if long, read.
-Thanksgiving wasn’t instituted as a national holiday until October 3, 1863, by Abraham Lincoln after a rather intense campaign by Sarah Josepha Hale to make the holiday a lasting institution. Before that, presidents had declared a day of thanksgiving every year or so, when they felt like it.
-Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to move Thanksgiving to an earlier date in November, with the aim to lengthen the holiday shopping season. It was not a popular move, and so in 1941 the holiday was fixed on the fourth Thursday in November.