Thanksgiving is a traditional holiday started in 1621 as a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims. It is held on the fourth Thursday in November of each year, which is the 26th this year. So, how did the Pilgrims got started with giving thanks?
Following the Mayflower arrival at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts on December 11, 1620, the Pilgrims suffered a loss of some of their men. With the help of Indians, the surviving Pilgrims were able to make it through the bitter winter and in 1621 they had a harvest of thanksgiving. The harvest lasted three days while the Pilgrims and Indians united in a “thanksgiving” celebration.
From 1622 to 1675 there was no further “thanksgiving” harvest. However, on June 29, 1676, the community of Charleston, Massachusetts proclaimed a day of “thanksgiving” for the good fortune. The next “thanksgiving” celebration was a hundred years later. In October 1777, all 13 colonies participated in a one-time “thanksgiving” celebration to celebrate the patriotic victory over the British. It was not until 1789, 150 years later, that George Washington proclaimed Thanksgiving Day a national holiday. Abraham Lincoln in 1863 proclaimed the last Thursday to be Thanksgiving holiday and Congress made it a legal holiday in 1941 (www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving).
The West Indian Community has embraced the American National holiday through its creativity and open-mindedness upon its arrival on the American soil. So, come thanksgiving month, November, the West Indian households starts the preparation for Thanksgiving Day. Many start the invitation early to see who is going to cook what dish and whose house will be the gathering place. On Thanksgiving Day, West Indian families gather together for sit-down dinners that represent a blend of American dishes (turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce), Black-American dishes ( cornbread, ham, marcoon & cheese, pork) and the West Indian dishes – “a little from all the islands” ( jerk chicken, curry goat, plantains, red snapper, rum punch, okra, roti, salt bread, boiled dumplings, and more). When it comes to celebrating Thanksgiving Day, the West Indian Community has the best of all worlds, at least when it comes to “turkey day” and a good meal.
Writer: Beverly M. D. is currently serving as the Secretary for West Indian Social Club. She has a passion for community development, small business management, and Caribbean history, arts, and culture.