Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Thanksgiving a national American holiday, taking place on the fourth Thursday of November. This is the principal occasion in the year in the USA for families and friends to be reunited for a celebratory meal. The menu includes two well-established features: roast turkey with cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.

The history of both the celebration and the meal is complex. The popular perception is that both have their origin in 1621, when the Governor of Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts declared that the successful bringing in of the first harvest, after a winter of privations, be celebrated with a feast. It is certain that the feast was held, and that both the settlers and the Native Indians of the area took part; a contemporary source states that the latter included Chief Massasoit and ninety men, and that the dishes served included fowl and deer. Beyond that, little is known for sure, and the event was not repeated until 1623.