The evolution of Thanksgiving: then and now
Published: Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 13:11
What does the Thanksgiving holiday mean to you? How does that differ from what it meant to your parents and grandparents? Most holidays have evolved as society and lifestyles have changed, and Thanksgiving is one of the best examples of this phenomena.
Thanksgiving probably originated from the celebrations many ancient cultures had at the end of harvest time. These celebrations happened everywhere from Egypt to Rome, and involved thanking their gods for a bountiful harvest and providing food for the year. The celebrations were also found in more recent cultures, including the Native Americans before Europeans "discovered" the land.
However, even more recently, Thanksgiving has taken the shape that most Americans are familiar with. The day was first declared a national holiday in 1863. According to history.com, Lincoln declared "at the height of the Civil War, in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to ‘commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife' and to ‘heal the wounds of the nation.'" Lincoln set this holiday on the last Thursday of November.
As evidenced by this history, Thanksgiving had become something very different from the original religious celebration of the harvest long before most people alive today can remember. Today, however, it is even more unrecognizable.
In modern time, most people view Thanksgiving as a time to get together with family, to be grateful for the good things in life and to watch football. When asked how these new traditions compare to the traditions held by the parents and grandparents, Parkland students had a variety of responses.
"My grandparents have a big family dinner," Parkland student Sarah Ward said. "I prefer to have a quiet dinner with friends." A possibly unforeseen benefit of having a smaller Thanksgiving dinner is the money you will be saving. According to an article on CNBC published on Nov. 10, 2011, the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner will increase by 13 percent. The article says that the biggest increase is that Turkey will cost an estimated 25 cents more per pound than last year.
Other Parkland students also look at cost effectiveness of having a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. One such student, Byron Holmes, says that he does a cheap Turkey dinner, while his parents have a big meal, that's almost a feast. Something that most people associate with Thanksgiving is leftovers. However, with the new, economically savvy Thanksgiving trend, months of leftovers may be a thing of the past.
Parkland students Mark Rozinsky and Ashley Barkstall said that their traditions from each generation have not changed. These two students follow the traditions of their families, and there are many reasons that one would uphold these practices. For some students, it is a reminder of home and an opportunity to spend time with family members who may live far away.
Another reason to continue Thanksgiving traditions would be to stay grounded, and to remember where you came from. As a college student, it is easy to get caught up in classes, jobs, and a social life. However, to most students, family is still an important part of life and holidays are a convenient way to express this importance.
Thanksgiving, especially, is the perfect opportunity to be grateful for the people in life that love you, for the support received from friends and family and to watch football. As American traditions change with the culture, there are some things that stay the same.
So, on turkey day this year, whether you are at work, with friends, with family or anywhere else, remember that traditions come and go and that the most important part is to do something that matters to you.