Thanksgiving day, which means the day of the " Action of grace », Is celebrated on fourth Thursday in November in the United States and the second Monday in October in Canada. Every year, Americans celebrate, around the Thanksgiving turkey, this tradition established in the 17th century whose origins go back to the founding pilgrims of the colony of Plymouth. What does it commemorate? It is easy to remember that Thanksgiving celebrates the help given by the Natives to the Pilgrims disembarked from Mayflower in 1620. Yet this tradition, which has become family and commercial, tends to eclipse the ghosts of the past. Many Amerindians were massacred during the conquest of the West and victims of European diseases.
The Mayflower and the Plymouth Colony ...
Thanksgiving is a holiday that has its roots in the landing of pilgrims in New England. Leaving England on September 16, 1620, the Mayflower carried 102 passengers to the New World, including Puritans (called Pilgrim Fathers in 1798), members of a Separatist Church. The ship reached Cape Cod on November 21. The Pilgrim Fathers then disembark to create the colony of Plymouth. It is the second English colony after Jamestown. They settled precisely in the territory of the Wampanoags. The Pilgrims formed a government and wrote the Mayflower Compact, a policy statement that was the first written Constitution in America.
The harsh winter caused a loss of half of the 110 emigrants. Gradually, the new inhabitants created links with the Indians Wampanoags with whom they established a treaty in order to secure mutual aid. This cooperation could be useful to the Indians in particular in the event of attack of the rival tribe: the Narragansetts.
... the origin of the Thanksgiving meal
The Wampanoags taught the pilgrims their knowledge: planting corn, practicing fishing, which allowed them to have a good harvest the following fall. Sequento, one of the natives was of great help as he served as their interpreter. first thanksgiving. It is possible that wild turkeys paid the price.
Subsequently, a second ship arrived: "the Fortune " including relatives of the Mayflower passengers. They brought with them official documents in order to legalize the establishment of the colony.
"As the Puritan population grew, their hosts disappeared"
It should be noted that the Indians suffered “ the silent invasion In addition to the armed conflicts that followed. Soon after, the disease devastated populations who were not immune to influenza, mumps, smallpox and cholera. As the historians Carmen Bernand and Serge Gruzinski explain in their book New world story, "In 1633, a smallpox epidemic broke out. As the Puritan population grew, their hosts disappeared ".
In the colonial zone, at the time of the establishment of the thirteenth colony, the Indians numbered 100,000 while the foreign population exceeded 500,000 inhabitants. The development of the colonies inaugurated a territorial struggle that would last three centuries. The Indians will be subdued and conquered.
Thanksgiving, national holiday
Shortly after the War of Independence (1775-1783) ThanksGiving was officially declared by the young government of the United States. In his speech dated October 3, 1789, George washington proclaims the first day of thanksgiving and sets it for Thursday, November 26, 1789. He invites the inhabitants to express their gratitude following the independence of the United States and to thank god. "Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent AuThor of all the good ..."
Until then, Thanksgiving was celebrated on different days. For more than thirty years, journalist Sarah Josepha Hale campaigned for the establishment of a common national holiday. This is Abraham Lincoln who took his request into consideration. In the midst of the civil war (1861-1865), the latter saw a political interest in uniting the people around a founding event. Thus in 1863, Thanksgiving was established as a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln who fixed it on the fourth Thursday of November.
The first parade dedicated was organized in 1924 in New York by the Macy's chain of stores. It is the largest parade bringing together nearly 3 million spectators. Today Thanksgiving Day is as important as Christmas in the United States and is the subject of a family meal that includes turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.
Thanksgiving Day is also a public holiday in Canada, the first celebrations of which date back to 1879, and celebrated every second Monday in October since 1957.
Roosevelt's 1942 Thanksgiving speech
In a radio statement on Thanksgiving in 1942, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called for popular support for US troops then involved in World War II: " In these last months of the year, our country and other nations are embroiled in a battle for freedom on many fronts. As we commemorate today the most prolific harvest in the history of our country, we pledge to do all in our power to achieve this same goal in the year to come because, through our hard work in the fields, we can share in the sacrifice made by our brothers and sons who wear the uniform of the United States. »
- Nancy Green, The Emigrants' Odyssey And They Populated America, Gallimard, 1994.
- Carmen Bernand and Serge Gruzinski, Histoire du nouveau monde, les métissages, Fayard.