|Almost every culture in the world has held celebrations of
thanks for a plentiful harvest. The American Thanksgiving holiday began as
a feast of thanksgiving in the early days of the American colonies almost
four hundred years ago.
In 1620, a boat filled with more than one hundred people sailed across
the Atlantic Ocean to settle in the New
World（新大陆）. This religious group had begun to question the beliefs
of the Church of England and they wanted to separate from it. The Pilgrims
settled in what is now the state of Massachusetts. Their first winter in
the New World was difficult. They had arrived too late to grow many crops,
and without fresh food, half the colony died from disease. The following
spring the Iroquois
Indians（美国纽约州东北部易洛魁族印第安人）taught them how to grow corn, a new food
for the colonists. They showed them other crops to grow in the unfamiliar
soil and how to hunt and fish.
In the autumn of 1621, bountiful crops of corn, barley（大麦）, beans and pumpkins were harvested. The
colonists had much to be thankful for, so a feast was planned. They
invited the local Indian chief and 90 Indians. The Indians brought deer to
roast with the turkeys and other wild game offered by the colonists. The
colonists had learned how to cook cranberries and different kinds of corn
and squash dishes from the Indians. To this first Thanksgiving, the
Indians had even brought popcorn.
In following years, many of the original colonists celebrated the
autumn harvest with a feast of thanks.
After the United States became an independent country, Congress
recommended one yearly day of thanksgiving for the whole nation to
celebrate. George Washington suggested the date November 26 as
Thanksgiving Day. Then in 1863, at the end of a long and bloody civil war,
Abraham Lincoln asked all Americans to set aside the last Thursday in
November as a day of thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November, a different date
every year. The President must proclaim that date as the official
Thanksgiving is a time for tradition and sharing. Even if they live far
away, family members gather for a reunion at the house of an older
relative. All give thanks together for the good things that they have.
In this spirit of sharing, civic groups and charitable organizations
offer a traditional meal to those in need, particularly the homeless. On
most tables throughout the United States, foods eaten at the first
thanksgiving have become traditional.
Symbols of Thanksgiving
Turkey, corn, pumpkins and cranberry
sauce（酸果曼沙司）are symbols which represent the first Thanksgiving. Now
all of these symbols are drawn on holiday decorations and greeting cards.
The use of corn meant the survival of the colonies. "Indian corn" as a
table or door decoration represents the harvest and the fall season.
Sweet-sour cranberry sauce, or cranberry jelly, was on the first
Thanksgiving table and is still served today. The cranberry is a small,
sour berry. It grows in bogs（沼泽）, or muddy
areas, in Massachusetts and other New England states. The Indians used the
fruit to treat infections. They used the juice to dye their rugs and
blankets. They taught the colonists how to cook the berries with sweetener（甜味佐料）and water to make a sauce. The
Indians called it "ibimi" which means "bitter berry." When the colonists
saw it, they named it "crane-berry" because the flowers of the berry bent
the stalk over, and it resembled the long-necked bird called a crane. The
berries are still grown in New England.
In 1988, a Thanksgiving ceremony of a different kind took place at the
Cathedral of St. John the Divine. More than four thousand people gathered
on Thanksgiving night. Among them were Native Americans representing
tribes from all over the country and descendants of people whose ancestors
had migrated to the New World.
The ceremony was a public acknowledgment of the Indians' role in the
first Thanksgiving 350 years ago. Until recently most schoolchildren
believed that the Pilgrims cooked the entire Thanksgiving feast, and
offered it to the Indians. In fact, the feast was planned to thank the
Indians for teaching them how to cook those foods. Without the Indians,
the first settlers would not have survived.