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Updated on August 20, 2013


an ongoing project to identify the people behind Thanksgiving Day and Thanksgiving Night, to tell exactly what is thanksgiving, to go into the history of the first Thanksgiving and how the holiday got started, to show where it all started, to explain why we bother with the whole thing and how to make this holiday between Halloween and Christmas more than a hassle.

And I might even toss in a few curve balls.

a prayer of thanksgiving

The word thanksgiving with a lower case t means the giving of thanks.

If you are reading this at a time other than November, then you are likely to understand the concept that gratitude is good in and of itself but gratitude often leads to more to be thankful for. I was inspired by listening to another person's starting a gratitude journal.

I have also discovered that this spiritual stuff actually worked. My earlier Christian life had almost beat out of me the idea that my faith (or anyone else"s) had any effect on a world that seemed to get nastier by the day. But since I started seeing past religion and on to spirituality, I find that things upset me less than they used to do only a month ago.

I am _NOT_ saying to adopt some ascetic-from-India attitude or philosophy of accepting all the evil that comes your way. Far from it, if you have read my other lenses, then you know that I don't care for evil running the world. But one can be calm while being a crime fighter or speaking truth to power or being involved in some movement to improve the world or to improve life.

In some of my lenses (and hubs and leaves) I go on to say that getting hit over the head by riot police does not help you or the police. You are just enabling police brutality by giving bad cops a head to hit. Far better to use your head to think instead of using it to bleed. But if you choose to lay down your life to save a redwood tree or a blue whale or an elephant, then have some peace about it.

To get back to gratitude and thanksgiving, it is good to notice that we are making progress (albeit slowly) in things like reversing climate change and helping the poorest of the world and putting dictators behind bars (where they belong) and curing diseases that we thought incurable. If we fail to notice small incremental progress, then we risk being discouraged and we risk discouraging others and we give up right at the finish line -- which is what the forces of evil want.

This is what I mean by thanksgiving and gratitude. Thanks for the little victories !!! They add up to another big problem solved.

And this works on the personal level as well as the big social level.


Thank you for visiting this lens at a time other than Thanksgiving Day.


Known as the ceremony of giving thanks, day of blessing, day of worship, and the festival of plenty; the fourth Thursday in November in the United States (second Monday in October in Canada) commemorates a feast held in 1621 by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag.

The image is a representation of the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth

A Day of Thanksgiving

"Those snot nosed kids at OWS need to stop and think about all the things we have to be thankful for." -- charityGSHS

a lot of thanks the Native Americans got for saving the lives of the Pilgrims

namely, a rather grim life on the reservations -- when they were even allowed to live.

This is NOT a popular holiday with the First Americans. It just reminds them of broken treaties and lies.

The first thanksgiving

leave it to us Americans to commercialize everything - and degenerate a day of national prayer

down to what is vulgarly called "turkey day" by the football crowd

pretty much for many people the meal _IS_ the holiday

nothing else of the holiday exists for them

What is the most traditional indoor decoration for Thanksgiving?

a cornucopia or horn of plenty

Outside, foddershocks, bundles of cornstalks, pumpkins, cushaw and scarecrows. Forget those inflatable things. A lot of this is leftover from Halloween decoration. In fact the two are little different.

a short story suitable for the holiday

It helps if you have seen the TV series "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" but if you haven't then enjoy the story on the level of the oblique references to historical events mixed in with present day observance of Thanksgiving and even Thanksgiving in the future. Quite a ride if you can handle it.

A lot of research went into the story. Enjoy.

The First Thanksgiving Story

What is Thanksgiving

THANKSGIVING and Native American Views of Pilgrims

The Whiteman's First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving: A Native American View

The first thanksgiving

Do Native Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving????

This final section is for scholars.

Moral cowards and those with a rose-colored glasses view of life should not read.

What Are You Really Celebrating? Thanksgiving

Wordy but gives information that the other videos do not give.

The Ugly Truth( History before Thanksgiving)

Thanksgiving the Year Round

  • surviving cancer
  • California
  • a growing savings account
  • thanksgiving is a form of prayer
  • worship on the Sabbath every week

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving traditions

Every holiday has a big meal and sports on TV. Families use them for reunions and they may go out to see a movie. Therefore, there is no need to list items that are not distinctive to Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving only.

  1. dress up as Pilgrims -- the Pilgrims did not wear funeral black for festivals and big buckles were not in style a the time. So research your historically accurate Pilgrim outfit.
  2. dress up as Wampanoag of 1621 -- they did not dress like Plains Indians. And if you want to be historically accurate, then you would not dress like modern-day Mashpee or Aquinnah of Massachusetts who might very well dress like Boston bankers in three piece suits. Good luck on that research. Perhaps tribal scholars can help you or the Smithsonian's new Native American museum might have some resources.
  3. give thanks -- to God and to the Native Americans. Giving thanks on Thanksgiving is what the holiday was intended to do. For you ecological types, you might also thank the land (Mother Earth) for feeding you, for providing water and air, for being spacious, for being relatively disease-free, for growing forests, for having the best national parks on the planet, and for having relatively few venomous species. Since the land is not a person, the best way to give thanks to it is to not waste food (give food to food banks), to not litter, to stop pollution whenever you see it, to plan your family rather than squirting out children and expecting others to support them, to plant rrees, and to not import species into the country and then release them in Florida.
  4. pull a wish bone (skip this one if you are a vegan)
  5. go watch a Thanksgiving Day parade
  6. pumpkin -- They did not have this in 1621. Instead they roasted or stewed the pumpkin. Have some other kind of pie on other holidays.
  7. watch home videos -- of something other than being whacked in the crotch by a toddler with a baseball bat or falling down and becoming paralyzed below the neck for life. America's Funniest Videos are really sadistic when you stop and remember your pastor's sermons and Sunday School lessons. Hopefully, your family is not a pack of jackals.
  8. nap after the feeding frenzy -- sharks rarely sleep so be thankful to be a human. The reason you feel sleepy is because of the carbo-loading and blood sugar level, the presence of tryptophan in the turkey and buttermilk (a minor factor compared to carbs), and the kids thinking it is funny to put sleeping pills in the food.
  9. cooking & serving dinner for the less fortunate -- no one can fail to be moved by the sight of billionaires serving food to down on their luck millionaires. But seriously, donate time or food or money to a homeless shelter or Habitat for Humanity.
  10. buy a heritage breed turkey from a local farmer -- instead of a mass-produced turkey, and learn a lesson from Jewish people and have the animal slaughtered painlessly
  11. donate the peanut oil from deep frying your turkey to a bio-diesel recycling project
  12. if you are using paper plates * plastic utensils -- then use biodegradable plates
  13. the center piece -- use fresh flowers and real pumpkins instead of plastic flowers and plastic pumpkins
  14. giving thanks -- everyone at the table tells five things for which they are thankful. By the second year of this tradition, people will be going through the motions: "I'm thankful for the food. I'm thankful to have a roof over my head. I'm thankful for my family." You might as well turn on a recording and have other recorders record it. Instead, everyone should have to bring things that represent what they are thankful for. A person who recovered the ability to walk would bring the crutches or wheelchair that they no longer use. A person who got successful Lasik or ophthalmic surgery could bring the eyeglasses that they no longer need. A person who got off welfare or paid off a student loan could bring the final paperwork. Ditto the last mortgage payment. A diploma. A written job offer after someone has searched for months or years could be framed and shown to the others. If this is done right, then there may not be a dry eye after going around the table. This could become the most meaningful holiday for the family instead of the most stressful or boring.
  15. call faraway relatives -- we do this on Christmas too so it is a toss up as to which holiday has a better claim to it
  16. the same Thanksgiving tablecloth used every year -- it may be custom made or home made; it may be embroidered or signed or decorated by children
  17. family football -- play it rather than watch it
  18. play games -- play games that require no supplies such as charades but if your family lacks imagination or energy then pull out a board game like Monopoly.
  19. school play -- history, the Pilgrims board the Mayflower, crossing the Atlantic, landing on Plymouth Rock (I like the way Malcolm X told the story), starvation, cold winter blizzard, and the "first" Thanksgiving. Often, there are mentions of the ladies responsible for promoting this holiday and a short reading from the Bible.
  20. if you are in a traveling mood -- make the pilgrimage to Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, Massachusetts
  21. instead of leaving one person to clean up the kitchen -- have everyone pitch in to clear the table, scrape the plates, wash crystal/china/silverware, scrub pot and pans, dry clean items, put away clean items, empty the trash, compost scraps and feed some to pets, stack dish washing machine if you have one, and make the cook sit down and put his or her feet up and watch. Since people will be chatting the whole time, an onerous chore has been turned into yet another pleasant memory. There are cooks who cannot stand anyone in their kitchen and they cannot complain about the clean up. Buy such people paper plates, cups and utensils. Offer to have their turkey deep fried for them. Offer to bring certain dishes (from Boston Market or KFC) if they want. If you are rich, buy them a dish washing machine or treat them to a caterer or catering service. There really is no reason for any part of this holiday to be unpleasant work.
  22. the entire extended family goes for a walk together -- something as simple as a walk together is often the highlight of the holiday for many people long after they have forgotten the food and the football. Instead of sleeping after pigging out, walk to digest your food. Pick a good looking place to walk such as a city park with an esplanade, a suburban green way, a hiking trail, a state park, a waterfront, a river walk, along a canal, or a country lane with no vehicular traffic. The best walk avoids cars and trucks altogether and uses pedestrian bridges to stay entirely separated from motor vehicles and even bicycles so that elderly members of the family and children are not struck and injured. You don't want to ruin your memories of Thanksgiving with a fatality.

slow down Pilgrim! - pedestrians crossing

Thanksgiving Night

Go to bed early if you plan to get up before dawn for Black Friday.

Thanksgiving Night

This can be delayed though if you are into the Advent Season and prefer a more somber observance of the season. And a compromise is to make your lights less garish and not over the top tacky.

Thanksgiving Night is notable for two things:

1. Many people turn on their Christmas lights for the first time that year.

2. Many people go to bed early because they plan to get up at 2 A.M. to be first in line for the best sales.

The more extreme deal hunters simply get tents and sleeping bags and sleep over at the Big Box store's parking lot.

What is giving thanks? - And to whom?

Thanksgiving as a concept rather than a holiday is simply the giving of thanks for blessings received in the past twelve months. The concept goes back in history to songs,,prayers and offerings of the ancient Hebrews thousands of years ago. It means being grateful.

None of this means anything to people who lack moral values or ethics. Hence the content in the first half of this lens where I seem to beat the reader up. If you are white as I am, then you may tire of being reminded that your ancestors did not always mind their manners -- to put it mildly. Conservatives often joyfully ignore the blood stains of history or even alter textbooks to make their ancestors seem noble for committing genocide.

Liberals by contrast engage in awkward politically-correct behavior that makes everyone uncomfortable and sometimes engage in a form of self-flagellation. It is not liberals who need to feel guilty, it is conservatives like Jack Abramoff who appropriate the money of modern-day tribes and then look down on Native Americans. I am, of course, wasting my breath because conservatives will never change their behavior when they have liberals to feel guilty for them. Conservatives will continue to spout Christian words while not believing a word of it. You can't let your companies do things like destroy the Navajo Nation with uranium mining, radioactive waste, and callous policies and then pretend to be a Christian.

African-Americans are one of the few ethnic groups who can enjoy Thanksgiving without concern that their ancestors took advantage of the First Americans. Though not all Americans of African descent were brought here as slaves, many were and we can be glad slavery was abolished. Thankful in fact. The white pilgrims were thankful that they were not in Europe facing persecution. The red natives were being good hosts and might not have been so welcoming had they a crystal ball to see the future.

Latinos may celebrate this holiday with an Hispanic flavor because they cannot identify with Anglos. This is understandable but the Native Americans did not speak Spanish. The ethnic group arose as an uneven and variable mix of Spaniard conquistadors, Native Americans and some admixture of Africans as the three groups intermarried. To those Mexican Americans and other Latinos who can trace their Native American ancestry, Thanksgiving may be a good day to start the tradition of trying to resurrect those ties and learn the original languages spoken by the First Americans. The same holds true of white Anglo and black African Americans. They should also use the day to take an interest in all things of the Red Man and Red Woman. We hunger for knowledge of the original people and for knowledge of the land we call America.

Our history did not begin in 1492. It began over fifteen thousand years ago (some say over thirty thousand years ago) with the First Americans. These First Americans/Native Americans were not starving or freezing but they noticed that their new Pilgrim neighbors were starving and freezing and felt compassion for them.

Other ethnic groups such as Asian Americans may feel less historic ties to the holiday since no Asian or Pacific Islander was on hand when the First Americans and the first pilgrims sat down together to break bread. I would remind them that the Thanksgiving story is an immigrant story. The point is to feel welcome. The holiday is not a religious holiday but a spiritual holiday and not only have Christians and Jews embraced it but Sikhs and Muslims have embraced it also. The more religiously inclined can thank God. Hindus can thank a god but the Hindu take on Thanksgiving is that giving and thanks are central to Hinduism -- and the feast can be vegetarian.

I do not mean to leave out or exclude groups beyond the usually overlooked Zoroastrians and Jains but reader please respect that I tried to include everyone.

Buddhists do not believe in fear and do not believe in a personal God but they definitely believe in the concept of thanks and gratitude. Since it is not a religious holiday, it is acceptable to agnostics and atheists as well if one posits that one is grateful to the Native Americans for not kicking us all out or exterminating us even though we have overstayed and trashed the continent with litter and pollution.

We all should show our thanks by using Thanksgiving as a national report card day to state progress in our collective treatment of Native Americans and progress in our stewardship of the land, air and water of America -- in other words progress in cleaning up pollution. Why? Because thanks is only real if it is action rather than empty words.


Iron Eyes Cody was a Sicilian-American actor who publicized the plight of Native Americans and was honored by the American Indian community for his work.

Who are the people behind Thanksgiving?


There is convincing and overwhelming evidence that the Wampanoag and other tribes near the Wampanoag had some sort of Autumn harvest festival since time immemorial. The natives might well have been in a holiday mood when they visited the whites who had encamped on their land and later decided to accept an invitation to feast together.

The Native notables included Squanto, a Patuxet but living with the Wampanoag tribe, who served as an interpreter for them and the Wampanoag leader Massasoit. Interestingly, Squanto had been to Europe where he learned English and knew what the Europeans were capable of since he had been taken to Europe as a slave.

It later became a sore point that the Pilgrims thanked God but pointedly did not thank the Natives whom they saw as savages and mindless instruments of God in answer to their prayer for an easier winter than the first winter in the New World. If you listen to some of the videos, then you will hear Native Americans making this point. If I help you and you thank your god but forget to thank me, then I am right to suspect that your god teaches you bad manners. Note that I lower cased the word because Native Americans were often monotheists too. This feast of Pilgrims and Natives might have been forgotten and lost to history except that historians made a minor footnote of it. The feast remarkably _DID_ include turkey but it also included cod, eels, bass, clams, lobster, mussels, duck, goose, swan, and venison and vegetables. Thus, early on, the holiday was destined to be pigging out. We know this not only because of the quantity of food described but the fact that the feast lasted three days. I will let Roman scholars explain vomitoriums to you. The feast in 1621 that much later came to be called the "first" thanksgiving (as if Europeans had invented the concept alone) was attended by ninety (90) natives and fifty-three (53) pilgrims.

The next phase in the evolution of the holiday was in 1789, when George Washington wrote: "Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor..."

In 1863 during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens," to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26th. For a long time many white Southerners refused to celebrate the holiday viewing it as "a Yankee holiday" -- which of course ignores the fact that George Washington was a Virginian and therefore a Southerner.

Nearly three centuries after the feast in Plymouth in 1621, two famous paintings distorted our memory of the holiday. The painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris not only has such inaccuracies as dressing the Pilgrims in black outfits, dressing the Wampanoag like Plains Indians, and showing them sitting on the ground but ignores that reds outnumbered whites at the affair at a nearly two to one ratio. Jennie A. Brownscombe's painting has a group of Natives sitting on the ground and watching as the Pilgrims give thanks.

Controversy arose when the fourth Thursday was not the final Thursday in those rare years when there is a fifth Thursday in November. On December 26, 1941 it became federal law to fix the day as the fourth Thursday of November.

Shopping List

  • turkey
  • fresh vegetables
  • potatoes
  • stuffing mix
  • biscuits or flour to make biscuits
  • gravy or ingredients to make gravy -- such as saving the water and oil in which meats and vegetables were cooked in the weeks before Thanksgiving
  • disposable turkey pan with built-in rack
  • spray vegetable oil
  • pumpkin pie from the bakery.
  • 2 bags of fresh cranberries -- If you are like 99% of Americans, then you have never tasted cranberry without sugar. Like alcohol and cigarettes, it is an acquired taste. Unlike those, it is healthy.

Photographer: Patrick Fitzgerald from Atlanta, GA, USA (Creative Commons)
Photographer: Patrick Fitzgerald from Atlanta, GA, USA (Creative Commons)
Cook time: 4 hours
Ready in: 4 hours
Yields: 6


  • 4 cups crumbled cornbread
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon dried/rubbed sage
  • 1 cup dried apples
  • diced
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • roughly chopped
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • stemmed and finely chopped
  • 8 egg yolks
  • beaten
  • 1 stick butter
  • softened and whipped
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken or turkey
  • 1 (18 pound) whole turkey
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • softened
  • 1 1/2 quarts turkey stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (the turkey)


  1. 1. Place the rack in the lowest position of the oven. Then preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. 2. Combine all but last four ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  3. 3. Remove the neck and giblets.
  4. 4. Rinse the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels.
  5. 5. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in the roasting pan. Rub the skin with softened butter, and season with salt and pepper.
  6. 6. Fill the body cavity with stuffing.
  7. 7. Place a meat thermometer in the thickest part of one thigh.
  8. 8. Position a foil tent over the turkey.
  9. 9. Place the turkey in the oven, and pour two cups of turkey broth into the bottom of the roasting pan.
  10. 10. Baste the entire turkey every 30 minutes with the juices on the bottom of the pan.
  11. 11. Add stock to the drippings as they become dry, about one to two cups at a time.
  12. 12. Remove foil tent after two and a half hours.
  13. 13. Roast until the meat reaches 185 degrees Fahrenheit and the stuffing reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This should take about 4 hours.
  14. 14. Use cooking thermometer to make sure that the stuffing reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit before serving. If it didn't, then scoop it out and bake it alone in the oven until it does. If it is too moist, then microwave the stuffing but not the turkey.
Cast your vote for roast turkey

green bean casserole

Author: Rick Kimpel from Spring, TX, USA

Permission: CC-BY-SA

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

green bean casserole

If serving eight, then double the amount of ingredients.

Cook time: 45 min
Ready in: 45 min
Yields: 4


  • 15 ounces of fresh green beans or a large can of this size
  • 15 ounces of pearl onions (a can or jar of this size)
  • 2 tablespoons diced drained pimiento (this comes in little jars if you cannot find fresh)
  • 1 large can (11 ounces) of cream of mushroom soup
  • at least 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • at least 1/4 cup bread crumbs


  1. Combine the cheese and bread crumbs and set aside for topping.
  2. In a two quart casserole dish sprayed with Pam, combine all other ingredients then top with topping. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Bake uncovered for half an hour, Reduce time by five minutes if casserole browns sooner.

Pear and Ginger Cheesecake

recipe by mrskupe

Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts & Sage

cranberry relish

Thanksgiving 2012

On his way out the door, Elmo did this.

Thanksgiving 2013


Thanksgiving 2014

Nick Anderson © 8-9-12 Houston Chronicle

What do you give thanks for? - For what are you grateful?

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