Thanksgiving and the story behind it
Thanksgiving is America’s national holiday for giving thanks to
God. Thanksgiving Day has a special significance for Americans because it is traced back to that group of people who were among the first to come to the New World in search of freedom.
In 1620, 102 sea weary Pilgrims landed on the peninsula of Cape Cod. Their ship, the Mayflower, had intended to go to Virginia, but it made its landfall far to the north. After some weeks of exploring, the colonists decided not to make the trip to Virginia but to remain where they were. They chose the area near Plymouth harbor as a site for their colony. When they stepped ashore in this utterly alien world, they were totally isolated from any outside help and knew no means of livelihood. And the greater trouble is that in the woods lived Indians, some of whom were hostile. This added to the hardship of daily life. But the vast stretches of forest gave them a hope. In this way, the nation’s
forefathers not only survived the first severe winter, but also saw the first harvest of crops in the next autumn. In November of 1621, the settlers spent three days to celebrate and show thanks to God for a successful harvest. Their Indian friends were also invited to join their festival and feast.
This story of that Pilgrim feast is well known among Americans. It is told and retold every year to young children in schools as Thanksgiving Day approaches. It is now observed on the forth Thursday of November.
Today, in U.S.A Thanksgiving Day is celebrated by many Americans whose roots do not stem from Britain. Now it is marked by families gathering together to enjoy a traditional dinner for roast turkey, and to speak to one another of the things for which they are thankful. Young people who are at college or live away form their families usually come home for this dinner. If the parents are elderly, their adult children or some other relatives will prepare the dinner.
Basically remains as it was in early times: roast turkey,
stuffing(馅饼), cranberry sauce(越桔汤), sweet potatoes(田土豆),
mashed white potatoes, and pumpkin(南瓜饼). What we should
specially mention here are the pumpkin pie and turkey. Pumpkin had been raised by the Indians centuries before Columbus reached the West Indies. They had baked it with honey. As a part of the first Thanksgiving dinner, pumpkin has now endless recipes of cooking. And generally, roast turkey remains central to the meal. They use it because it is like chicken and will feed a large number of people. Those born in the United States vary in custom but most have turkey with pilaf and the American bread.
But as a unit, this menu is thought by the people who eat it to be very old, rural, and very natural. It is like Plymouth in 1621, only better, simpler, and somehow more American. It arouses strong nostalgic feelings and a longing for the good “folk”(普通) life.
Few Americans, of course, would or could put these feeling into words. They simply eat and compliment the housewife and tradition for setting such a good table. They understand that Thanksgiving is a kind of secular, nationalistic “mass” where
people eat symbols of their folk history, thereby regaining some of the qualities they believe their ancestors possessed.