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Thanksgiving: Another Case of Ironic Origins

If you didn’t know, the term “holidays” come from “holy days”. Examining many popular holidays on closer inspection reveal religious motivations underpinning them. Much of that has diluted and now celebrated days like Valentines, Easter, and Christmas aren’t so strictly religious. In fact, many commonly associated aspects to these days in modern times have little to do with the original traditions and tasks conceived in their origin. As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m sure you won’t be surprised that its origins also do little to reflect its now modern and secular self.

Ask many people about Thanksgiving, and you might get something about Pilgrims, Wampanoag, and a little bit of Squanto. It’s true. Plymouth colonists did celebrate with Native Americans after the Natives helped the colonists out during the harsh winter season. Everyone remembers the feasting, but turns out, there was a lot of fasting as well.

Fasting is the purposeful rejection of food for a certain amount of time. Many people do it for religious or spiritual reasons, but some do it for diet reasons. In the case of the colonists who were lucky to get any food at all in those harsh times, fasting was more of a religious activity. There were cases, where these early protestant settlers shifted from fasting to feasting for Thanksgiving. Frankly, feasting on a “Thanksgiving Day” is actually kind of weird. In most cases before and even some centuries after, Thanksgiving was just about fasting. Hence, the name not being “let’s pig out day”, but Thanksgiving as in the giving of thanks to specifically God and whatnot. No feasting basically. In fact, very much the opposite. So, take that new-found knowledge (though you might have already known) and give thanks that Thanksgiving is now about feasting and not fasting.

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