Origins of Thanksgiving Traditions

Many families have their own rituals of Thanksgiving, but there are traditions that all Americans stick to. What are the roots of these traditions? Certainly, most of us know the stories of the feast. The first one says that in 1621, pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock, virtually starving. The locals taught them to farm and, after their first harvest, they all had a meal filled with gratitude to celebrate their achievement. Another story about this feast says that Americans had their first Thanksgiving in 1598. A Spanish explorer and his 500 fellow travelers risked their lives deciding to cross the desert in Mexico. When they reached water, they had a large Thanksgiving feast. One more version makes Thanksgiving an even older feast. It says that in 1565 a Spanish admiral had this celebration with 500 soldiers and hundreds of Indians. Now, what about the history of traditions? Let’s see!

Facts about traditions on Thanksgiving

  1. Turkey pardon. The tradition of saving one turkey on Thanksgiving appeared in the times of John F. Kennedy. He was the first president to spare a turkey and let it live. Since then, it has become an every-year ritual.
  2. Official holiday. The history of Thanksgiving shows that this feast was informally celebrated in the 1600s, but it became an annual event only in the 1700s. First, each state had its own day for the celebration. George Washington declared it the national holiday in 1775. In 1798, the Thanksgiving Day proclamation was issued and in 1863 Americans got a fixed date for this celebration. It was President Lincoln who made it the last Thursday of November.
  3. Traditional meal. When Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Wampanoag Indians, their centerpiece of the meal wasn’t a turkey, but deer meat. Pilgrims also had goose and duck on their tables, while the first settlers preferred to include clams, lobsters, and mussels. Turkey, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce became the tradition later.
  4. Macy’s parade. The tradition of holding a parade with clowns, jugglers and knights began in 1924. The first parade was 6-mile long and about 250,000 people watched it. Due to this success, the store settled on holding it annually. Now it’s also a traditional part of Thanksgiving celebration!
  5. Kicking the ball. Playing Thanksgiving football originated from the times of the Great Depression. The first match held on this holiday took place in 1934. Back then, the Spartans (renamed into the Lions) played with the Chicago Bears. The tickets were sold two weeks in advance, the match had a huge success, and football turned into an annual tradition on Thanksgiving.


Now you know the origins of some Thanksgiving traditions. Share them with your family and friends while celebrating this holiday!