Posted in Kafevend Blog

The holiday season is in full swing in the USA right now, and with Thanksgiving Day tomorrow we thought we might take a look at this giant in the American calender. Unlike the mass feast it has become over the centuries, originally thanksgiving was often given by pilgrims to America when they arrived during the early 17th century, thanking God for keeping them safe during the voyage. In the previous century, Spanish settlers were also recorded as carrying out thanksgiving services.

Thanksgiving began its days as a religious observance, where a day was set aside to give thanks to God for various blessings, such as a safe voyage or the end of a drought. Thanksgiving as we know it is commonly attributed to an event in 1621, when the pilgrims at New Plymouth gathered their first successful harvest and celebrated with a three day feast. Two years later, they held another feast alongside a thanksgiving ordered by the governer, likely making it the first thanksgiving recognized by a civil authority rather than the church in America.

Through the 17th and 18th centuries, many thanksgivings were ordained by several individuals and held at various times. Many early American presidents called for days of thanksgiving, but it wasn't until 1817 that the idea of an annual thanksgiving on a fixed date came into being when the governer of New York appointed one. Though it initially met with opposition, a few decades later the idea spread as the governers of over two dozen assorted states and territories in America had proclaimed annual thanksgivings. A national Thanksgiving Day was finally implemented in 1863 by President Lincoln, who also stated it should be held on the last Thursday of November.

The turkey is a staple part of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Accounts of the 1621 feast mentioned wild turkeys being on the menu. Turkeys have continued to be included in thanksgivings since then and have become the centrepiece of the meal in most cases. Stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce are other must haves for most Americans when it comes to what to have on (or in) the turkey.

Alongside the turkey are a number of other dishes, all typically using ingredients available to the pilgrims in a continuity of tradition. A variety of winter squashes along with other vegetables like potatoes, peas, carrots and beans are can be found on the table along with things like dumplings, corn bread, biscuits and eggs. Dessert includes the traditional pumpkin pie, though other pies like sweet potato, mincemeat, chocolate and apple are common.

When it comes to drinks, cider and wine are popular choices. In the south though, sweet tea is often the beverage of choice. It is made by adding rather a large amount of sugar to strong black tea, before leaving it to cool and serving it iced. Extra flavours are sometimes added in the form of things like mint or lemon.

We wish a happy Thanksgiving to those across the pond, and to those travelling elsewhere we hope you get the chance to celebrate!

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