Investigating the true origins of Thanksgiving Day

Olivia Holt

As the days become shorter and the leaves on the trees start to change,City College students start to look forward to a four-day break from their hectic school schedules.
The Thanksgiving holiday can mean watching the Charger’s kick some butt while sitting around the TV amongst family and friends or fighting with them in the kitchen over the last slice of pumpkin pie.
The Thanksgiving story most Americans were told was the one written in many American History textbooks and taught in most educational systems. The story starts with the Pilgrims in the year of 1620 when the Mayflower landed near Plymouth Rock and Native Americans, one in particular Squanto, befriended and taught the Pilgrims how to survive in the foreign land by hunting, fishing and planting. A year later with all the plethora of food the Pilgrims invited Native Americans to dine with them during a three-day feast where they gave thanks for their many blessings. Sound familiar? The truth is, the traditional Thanksgiving story is pretty fabricated and many of the facts are omitted from most American History textbooks.
Peter Haro a City College history professor referred to one of his favorite books, “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” by James W. Loewen. In the book the author implies that in order to understand the true history of Thanksgiving then we must look at the facts.
“The Pilgrims did not introduce the tradition,” Loewen said. “Eastern Indians had observed autumnal harvest celebrations for centuries. The pilgrims had nothing to do with it; not until the 1890’s did they even get included in the tradition.”
Abraham Lincoln was the President that declared Thanksgiving as a national holiday. During the Civil War, when the Union needed all the patriotism that such an observance might muster, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday,” Loewen continued.
According to the documentary “Home for the Holiday” which aired on The History Channel by the mid 19th century most States celebrated Thanksgiving but the actual date of the festivities varied.
Establishing a national Thanksgiving Day would become the life long ambition of a Sarah Joeseffa Hale,” according to the documentary. Hale was the magazine editor of the “Goody’s Lady’s Book.” “It was the most widely circulated magazine of the mid 19th century. Every November Hale would encourage housewives in America to throw a genuine New England Thanksgiving with beautiful linens on table, the best China, people loved the image. She imagined and described Thanksgiving as the ultimate domestic holiday.
Even though the origins of Thanksgiving maybe unclear and debated, one tradition that holds steadfast over the years is the coming together of family to celebrate this November holiday- and enjoy a break from school.