Thanksgiving really is my favorite holiday. I love the cooking, the eating, and the focus on family. There isn’t much pressure and you don’t have to spend a ton of money. The main point is to give thanks and to embrace family. Who wouldn’t love that?
We also celebrate the story of Squanto, the American Indian who helped the pilgrims with their first harvest in 1620. The settlers were struggling and many died before Squanto and his tribe, the Wampanoags, helped the Europeans learn to fish, hunt, and grow their own food. In 1621, to celebrate their harvest, the Pilgrims invited the tribe for a three day feast. While many president’s, including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln recognized specific days for Thanksgiving, Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday in November as the official holiday that we celebrate today.
The Thanksgiving meal can vary across regions but often includes a turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie. As one of the biggest holidays for travel, it is estimated that in the U.S. around 44 million people will travel by car or air to celebrate the day with family and friends.
We find it is a great time to reflect on the challenges faced by the Pilgrims, the lives of the Native Americans, and the positive and negative results of those interactions. For kids, we recommend these books:
- The Story of the Pilgrims, Katherine Ross
- The Very First Americans, Karen Ashrose
- Squanto’s Journey, Joseph Brubac
For adults we recommend:
- Book of Thanksgiving, Jessica Faust
- The First Thanksgiving Feast, Joan Anderson
- 162: A New Look at Thanksgiving, Catherine O’Neill Grace
For activities, we love to do a Thanksgiving tree and have everyone write what they are thankful for on leaves to add to the tree (usually a cut out on the wall).
Many families go around the table before the meal and everyone shares their thanks. It is also a fun time to read about the pilgrims, about Native Americans, and about life in early America.