A Brief History of Thanksgiving


More than just a day of gratitude, Thanksgiving is a holiday event that can stretch out for days. It’s a time for family and friends to come together to celebrate each other and life itself. It’s been that way since at least 1621, when the first celebration of Thanksgiving was held among the colonists of Plymouth, MA and the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans. Though today’s Thanksgiving looks vastly different from the first harvest feast of centuries ago, the core idea of giving thanks for what we have remains the same.

When you’re hanging out with family and friends, it should be a time of laughter and creating good memories. To that end, do some prep before the big day. Make sure your home is as safe as possible, not only for your own good health, but for the health of your guests. The biggest way to do that is to clear the home of clutter and trip hazards. Remove anything that could impede a walkway, whether in the house or outside. And before your guests arrive, remember the little things, like increased lighting around and inside the home, sprinkling salt on outdoor walkways in the event of rain or snow, and keeping the home cozy and warm.

It’s also important to protect yourself as well. A medical alert system with fall detection can help you stay safe as you prepare for the big day. Whether you’re engaging in kitchen prep work ahead of the meal or taking the time to clean the house before guests arrive, a medical alert pendant around your neck or on a wristband means assistance is right at your fingertips if you should ever need it.

Whether you are kicking up your feet and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while somebody else cooks or working hard in the kitchen to prepare the meal yourself, Thanksgiving is a special day. And it’s been special for hundreds of years.

The History of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a national holiday held on the fourth Thursday of every November. While it was already a strong tradition of the autumn months, it didn’t become an officially recognized holiday until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day that would be held every November.

But what were the settlers at Plymouth really celebrating in the first place?

They started their journey from England in September 1620. They sailed across the ocean on the Mayflower to seek a new home. Some were looking for land ownership, others seeking prosperity, and still others looking for a place where they could freely practice their religion. The crossing lasted for 66 days before they dropped anchor in Cape Cod, MA. Weeks later the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay and they quickly began establishing a village they called Plymouth.

To say it was difficult is an understatement. Most of the new settlers remained on the ship that winter. About half of them fell victim to disease, illness, and exposure to the elements. Those who survived left the ship to move ashore as the spring thaw came, and were soon welcomed by a Native American, who greeted them in English. Within a matter of days, Native Americans from various tribes were helping the settlers establish the things they would need to survive, including how to fish, cultivate corn and other crops, extract sap from maple trees, and so much more. 

Soon an alliance was established between the settlers and the Wampanoag tribe. It was more than enough to give them cause to celebrate during that first Thanksgiving, when the settlers were finally established on the land and had a fighting chance at survival. That festival lasted for three days, during which there was a wide variety of food, including game birds, deer, lobster, seal, and swan. That might sound quite different from our Thanksgiving celebrations of today, but those game birds might have included wild turkeys!

And of course, there were vegetables, including the corn that would help sustain the settlers through the next harsh winter. Since the settlers had no oven, the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American styles of cooking. There were no cakes, pies, or other sweets, as the sugar supply the settlers had brought with them had dwindled down to very little.

The next harvest celebration occurred in 1623 as a celebration to mark the end of a long drought. After that, the celebration became an annual event, one that brought people together from all across the area for days of feasting, games, and companionship.

What Thanksgiving Looks Like Today

Today’s Thanksgiving celebration is nothing like what it looked like way back in the 1600s, or even what it looked like in the early 1900s! Though it was always a day of friends, family, and food, today it also includes early Black Friday sales and football games, which are usually watched after everyone has stuffed themselves to the brim with turkey and pie.

Here are some interesting Thanksgiving facts to share around the dinner table:

·         Americans will consume between 3,150 and 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving. But remember, that’s an average – there are people out there who will consume even more!

·         Not everyone cooks the big meal at home. About 13% of revelers will order take out or go to a restaurant for the holiday this year.

·         While turkey is still king, sometimes we get tired of the same old thing. Sixty-four percent of Americans would like to see an alternative to turkey on their table this year.

·         When it comes to side dishes, Americans prefer to dig into mashed potatoes, stuffing or dressing, bread or rolls, sweet potatoes or yams, and cranberry sauce.

·         Most people prefer to toast with wine on the big day.

While Thanksgiving can be an amazing holiday to share with others, it can also be quite stressful. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, 54% of hosts say they are stressed out, and 47% say they or someone in their household will take off work to prepare the dinner. That stress, though it is short-term, can lead to serious health consequences.

The Cleveland Clinic tells us that even short periods of stress can lead to physical symptoms, including headaches, exhaustion, muscle tension, aches and pains, and even high blood pressure or chest pain. The stress of the holidays is an excellent reason to turn to Alert1 for medical alert technology. Our medical alert bracelets and pendants can assure you that assistance is on the way within moments if you ever need it – and that can help you through the stress of the season. (Though it can’t help you deal with your not-so-favorite aunt... you’re on your own for that one!)

Other Things to Know About Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day is also a gateway to the rest of the holiday season – that’s why the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade always ends with Santa Claus rolling into town! Celebrated since 1924, today the parade commands a 2.5 mile route and over 8,000 people to entertain, handle the iconic balloons and participate in the many floats that make their way through New York City. Over 50 million people watch it on television while the turkey cooks.

If you’re one of those who will be traveling on this big day, you’re not alone. About a third of us will travel during the holiday to see family, friends, or even the big parade[1]. You already know how important it is to have peace of mind while at home, but did you know that Alert1 Medical Alert Systems can provide you with peace of mind while you’re on the go? Our on-the-go medical alert devices have built-in GPS and optional fall detection. This gives peace of mind knowing that one of our trained professionals can be on the line with you within moments, no matter where you roam over the holiday season.

This year we’re thankful for many things – family, friends, good health, beautiful memories, and the fun opportunities that await us in the future. And we’re thankful for you. Alert1 wishes you and yours the happiest of Thanksgivings!