The People’s History of Thanksgiving

Mykaila Peters

When thinking about Thanksgiving, many think of a large feast including turkey, mashed potatoes, squash, stuffing, cranberries, bread, apple pie and pumpkin pie, but there is a history behind where the feast originated.

Tom Morgan spoke of the way in which Thanksgiving is a natural occurrence in that at the end of the harvest season, farmers harvest the bounty of their land.

“From what I know about American history, it was not unusual that the early settlers, once they got through the winter and managed to plant something in the spring, they would want to have a Thanksgiving feast at the end of their harvest,” said Morgan.

Morgan spoke of the traditional Thanksgiving story when the Native Americans helped the Pilgrims who were hungry and unprepared for winter. He explained that the thing that makes Thanksgiving complicated is when we think of the relationship with Native Americans today.

“What has made it complex and controversial is the fact that the white people and the Indians sat down together, and the Indians helped the white settlers with the first harvest, and it has been downhill ever since between Native Americans and white Americans,” Morgan said.

Since the early 17th century, Thanksgiving has been celebrated in European, Canadian and some African cultures. Morgan explained that Americans have glommed onto Thanksgiving and romanticized it with images of what the first harvest was and what it should be today. He explained that early Thanksgiving feasts were likely not as elaborate or the settings quite as beautiful as is portrayed in common historical depictions, but the images have been created in such a way to portray Thanksgiving as a glorified holiday.

“As a holiday, putting aside the cultural baggage that goes with it and how native people could be offended by it, I like Thanksgiving,” said Morgan. “My family gets together and has a big meal. Nothing gets in the way and we have fun. We talk to each other and there are not any presents. The commercial aspect has not yet evaded it. Thanksgiving seems pure. It is clean.”

Thanksgiving has a long history and can be interpreted different and hold varying importance to each individual. It is celebrated across the world in multiple countries and among many cultures. Although it has somewhat been romanticized, it does hold beauty, purity, and sentiment to those who celebrate it making it an important holiday worldwide.