As we in the UK are gearing up for Christmas and the inevitable argument about toys, Father Christmas and who gets the leg at Christmas Dinner, our friends across the Atlantic are getting ready for another day of celebration.
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Thanksgiving is a difficult concept; so if your little ones want or need to know about it, then the Handy Histories Team is on hand to help them and you, out.
The idea of Thanksgiving is not an American invention. From the times of Henry VIII, Christians have often put aside a day to celebrate a good harvest, bring the community together and celebrate the bounty. These days were designed to thank God for supplying the community with food that will last them during the cold and hungry months.
When the America’s were found and colonised by the English, these Puritans arrived and gave thanks to God, for the safe journey they had just been on. Founding an area called Plymouth; these Pilgrims were keen to build a lasting and fruitful colony that would be self-sufficient. However; the New World was a strange place, with seasons at different times to England. The Pilgrims were forced to struggle with what supplies they could find.
The story goes, that local Native Americans, came to the Pilgrims and offered to help those that were in trouble. In return, the Pilgrims gave the Indians clothing and other items from England. It goes on to say that the Pilgrims and the Indians, sat down and ate together in what has become known as the First Thanksgiving. The Indians taught the English how to catch fish and eels, showed them the best areas to forage and most importantly, where to shelter.
All of these points are hard to prove; but the Americans, and some Canadians, use this account as the basis of their Thanksgiving meals. On the fourth Thursday of November, this year the 26th of November, families and communities all come together to eat traditional American meals – turkey, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce are all included.
Thanksgiving is one of the most important celebrations in the American calendar.
Interestingly, today on Thanksgiving Day, the President of the United States, actually pardons a turkey so that it doesn’t get eaten at Thanksgiving!
The pardoned turkeys go and live in the countryside – at the home of George Washington!
The Atlantic: the large ocean between Europe and America. It is the second largest after the Pacific
Henry VIII: King of England 1509 – 1547. He was married 6 times!
Colonise: When a country sends people to claim a piece of land for them. These people then set up a colony which is where they live
Pilgrims: Travellers who were looking for a new and Holy Land where they could worship freely
Native Americans: The people who lived in America before the English, Spanish and other European countries went there
Pardon: To let someone off for a crime committed or to allow them to avoid punishment
George Washington: The first President of the United States, famous General and statesman. A hero in America