The Modifications Made to Thanksgiving Divert Attention from the Original Celebration


Jane Holmes

Typical Thanksgiving and fall decorations that are a part of the “new” holiday

Ella Patel, Opinions Editor

Thanksgiving celebrations have drastically changed from its original intent. What used to be a religious day to give thanks, is now celebrated in many households as a day for food, football, and family. If Thanksgiving was inspired by the original event, people should recognize it as it was originally. This holiday is an important day and though fun to celebrate, should still commemorate the original occurrence.

In November 1621, the first Thanksgiving feast was held among the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians. President Lincoln proclaimed this a national holiday in 1863. This monumental event is now celebrated widely today. This day was initially a religious event, but in countless American households, it is now celebrated with cooking and having meals with friends and family. Most accounts of the original event between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians show no mention of turkey being served at the holiday feast.

Much of the traditions now celebrated during or around Thanksgiving are recent additions to the holiday that have little to no relevance to the original date. Turkey was not a relevant cuisine during the original feast nor were potatoes served. Initially, Thanksgiving was a religious holiday to celebrate the Gods and give thanks for a prosperous harvest. Thanksgiving was also considered a day for mourning and most do not know about or acknowledge this as part of the holiday.

One of the reasons why Thanksgiving was altered from its original intent was due to Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1939, during the Great Depression, Roosevelt tried to adjust the date of Thanksgiving, pushing the occasion forward a week in an attempt to increase retail sales. This act was acknowledged by few and Roosevelt returned the date to the last Thursday of November. Nevertheless, this leads to another contradiction of the original holiday, a focus on shopping and holiday deals, better known to Americans as Black Friday. 

Black Friday is an extensive contribution to the decline in early Thanksgiving tradition. Originally, Black Friday was a phrase used to describe the crashing of the stock market in 1864. This term was later used in Philadelphia to describe the swarms of people who visited on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and eventually was adopted as a retail holiday, celebrated annually.

A major motivation for people to look forward to the holidays are the numerous bargains that manifest during the holiday months, not to mention the parades that occur such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In an attempt to promote the economy, buyers and sellers have assisted in the decline of Thanksgiving traditions. As Thanksgiving has modernized, much of the original customs have been lost.

In ways, Thanksgiving has inspired a great deal of good. Many people spend their time volunteering and hosting food drives. Family and friends also have an occasion to gather and reconnect. People feel more inclined to help and give back to the community. The matter of the fact is that even though Thanksgiving is an adequate holiday, people should still appreciate this date for what it once was.