UNF Spinnaker

Orgins of Thanksgiving

Darvin Nelson, News Editor

Many remember Thanksgiving as a heart-warming 24 hours about scarfing down delicious turkey and spending time with family and friends. But there is some controversy about how the warm holiday is portrayed, and if it sugarcoats the relationship between Natives and European settlers.

Americans have celebrated the tradition of Thanksgiving since the year 1621. That year, Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Natives shared a feast that is known as the first Thanksgiving.

However, the holiday was not declared official until President Abraham Lincoln nationally proclaimed it, two centuries later, in 1863.

Some scholars have recorded similar ceremonies among European settlers earlier than the 1621 feast. In the year 1565 at St. Augustine, Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aville held a dinner with the local Timucua tribe to thank God for his crew’s safe travels to the new land. 

So, there is a possibility the first Thanksgiving may have been held here in Florida.

Either way, since then Americans have been meeting with their families and enjoying a delicious autumn meal. Turkey is the first on the Thanksgiving  menu, along with mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and macaroni and cheese. 

Another tradition is the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Since 1964, millions of people have crowded in New York City to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with giant balloons, marching bands and fancy floats. Although this year, the glorious parade will look very different due to, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Image by Erik Thomas / NY Post.

According to the New York Post, the 94th annual Thanksgiving Day Parade will continue but will be much smaller, and mostly adhered for television. Pre-taped performances of Broadway’s “Hamilton,” and “Mean Girls” will be shown.

Fun fact: The famous ‘Jingle Bells’ song was actually initially a Thanksgiving tune. Written by James Lord Pierpont, the song’s original name was “One Horse Open Sleigh,” and was sung at a church’s Thanksgiving service. Pierpont lived out his final years here in Florida.

Many people take offense at how American Thanksgiving “paints a deceptively sunny portrait” of the relations between the native people and the European settlers, and acts as a facade for the long history of conflict and bloodshed between them.

Thanksgiving has been protested since the 1970s by people who gather on Cole’s Hill, Mass. — which overlooks Plymouth rock — to honor a “National Day of Mourning.”

Image courtesy of UIANE Facebook.

Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers,” the United American Indians of New England (UAINE) stated in their National Day of Mourning description. “Thanksgiving day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture.

Black Friday is also, in fact, Native American Heritage Day. In 2009, Barack Obama signed the Native American Heritage Day Resolution,which had unanimous support from the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

“I encourage every American to join me in observing Native American Heritage Day,” Obama stated. “It is also important for all of us to understand the rich culture, tradition, and history of Native Americans and their status today, and to appreciate the contributions that First Americans have made and will continue to make to our Nation.”

On Instagram, Spinnaker asked fellow Ospreys about their opinion on Thanksgiving and if they knew the history behind it. Here are some responses:

Instagram usernames removed for privacy.

We hope our fellow Ospreys are enjoying the holiday season, and practicing safe gatherings.

Featured Image by Element5 Digital via Usplash.


For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].

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Orgins of Thanksgiving