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Celebrating… Thanksgiving
Celebrating… Thanksgiving

The celebration of Thanksgiving can be a little confusing to those of us who are not American. From the origins of the tradition, to how it is celebrated today, here, we have tried to answer some of those burning Thanksgiving questions, in the hopes that perhaps you could embrace this autumn festival for yourself. Roll on the 26th November!

The beginnings

When the first Pilgrims arrived at Cape Cod, things did not initially go to plan. They spent the first bitter winter on the Mayflower, and suffered many losses. When spring arrived and they moved ashore, the Pilgrims were met by an Abenaki tribesman who taught the Pilgrims how to farm the land. In the autumn of 1621, and the crops that both the Pilgrims and the local Native American tribe - the Wampanoag - had planted were ready to be harvested.

It was this successful harvest that led Governor William Bradford to arrange a celebration. This took shape as a feast, and all of the Mayflower Pilgrims joined with the Wampanoag tribe to enjoy what would later become known as the first Thanksgiving.

Modern celebrations

The menu at that first Thanksgiving would have been very different to what is traditionally eaten today. It is likely that they dined on deer brought by the Native Americans, whereas today, turkey is the meat of choice. But, regardless of the centrepiece, food and the notion of dining together remain the core part of the celebrations, just as they did in 1621.

Traditionally, you will find that the turkey is served alongside plenty of side dishes. Expect roasted vegetables, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and cornbread to complete the main course, with plenty of apple pies, pumpkin pies and chocolate cream pies for dessert.

Along with the feast, sports and parades also feature heavily in the modern-day American Thanksgiving. American football - specifically, the NFL - takes precedence with three games usually taking place throughout the day, and the morning is usually occupied by the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. This celebration takes place in New York City from 9am, and is broadcast across the country - expect giant floats, marching bands and plenty of patriotism!

Of course, many businesses close on Thanksgiving too, which allows families and friends to spend the day together.

Remember the message

You don't have to celebrate Thanksgiving in the American style to be truly thankful. Whether it is a dedicated day, or just five minutes every day, taking some time to consider what you really are thankful for is a great way of reminding yourself of what is important in life, and a good exercise in staying humble - a good exercise for anyone, in our minds.

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