The day of grace and gluttony we know as Thanksgiving is more than just the big meal before Black Friday. It has rather noble origins. When our pioneering forefathers arrived on American shores, they left the Mayflower in a tragic state. Throughout the winter at sea they suffered from exposure, scurvy, and outbreaks of contagious diseases. When only half of the original crew made it to the New World, an Abenaki Indian greeted them in their native tongue of English. Days later, he returned with Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe, who was sold into slavery to an English sea captain.
Despite his tumultuous past, Squanto taught the weary Pilgrims the lay of the new land. They learned how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers, and avoid poisonous plants. He also united them with the Wampanoag tribe, which remains as one of the only examples of peace between the colonists and Native Americans. In November of 1621, colonial Governor William Bradford organized a feast to thank the Native Americans for their kindness.
The exact menu has been lost over time, but the first Thanksgiving is said to have been a three-day festival that featured the results of a successful "fowling mission" and five deer presented by the Wampanoag. Since then, we've added our own myriad of traditions involving everything from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, cornucopia centerpieces, to homemade pumpkin pie. Though Thanksgiving Day is unique to the U.S., many different nations have their own way and reasons for dedicating a day to gratitude. From mooncakes in China and Vietnam, to a festival honoring yams in Ghana, a number of countries around the world have unique traditions to celebrate the harvest.
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