Thanksgiving evolved into modern American tradition

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Thanksgiving Day is a day of offering thanks for all of the blessings we have in our lives as well as enjoying the company of family and friends. Dinners consisting of turkey, ham or other meats as and all of the fixings are a staple of this holiday. On average, Americans travel 214 miles as part of this tradition. Interestingly, it did not start that way.

Our ancestors who settled this country believed that Thanksgiving should be a time of prayer and fasting. It was not until 1621, when the pilgrims shared a meal on this day with their Native American neighbors, did it become a celebratory feast. In fact, the pilgrims did not have enough food for everyone, leading the chief of the Wampanoag tribe to send some of his men out to hunt and kill deer. Turkeys were not even part of the original meal.

Over the centuries to follow, Thanksgiving has undergone several changes. It was not recognized as a formal holiday until President Abraham Lincoln declared it so in 1863. The famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade debuted in 1924, when a group of Macy’s employees decided to launch a parade and feature animals from the Central Park Zoo.

In 1939, President Roosevelt tried moving the holiday to one week later, thinking it would boost trade and help struggling businesses during the Great Depression. This was unsuccessful and it was moved back to the fourth Thursday of November as originally declared.

You can even thank Thanksgiving for the creation of TV dinners. Swanson purchased significantly more turkeys than needed, leading the company to carve them up and create dinners that could be frozen and eaten later.

However you choose to celebrate this holiday, at home or traveling to be with loved ones, all of us at Wilson Medical Center wish you and your family a very safe and enjoyable holiday.

Ron Stahl, M.D., is the chief medical officer at Wilson Medical Center.