Thursday, 25 November 2010

Thanksgiving (with a quiz!)

Today is Thanksgiving in the USA, and President Obama has marked it by traditionally "pardoning" a turkey (called Apple) and handing out food supplies at a local Washington charity. The day's origins come from 1621, when the surviving pilgrims from the Mayflower, half of whom had died during the winter from exposure or disease, shared a celebratory feast with the local Wampanoag tribe to acknowledge the successful harvest of their corn. The pilgrims had survived partly due to the help of Squanto, a Native American who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery before escaping to London and then back to America. He spoke perfect English and advised the pilgrims how to cultivate their crops and find food in the local environment.

The thanksgiving story caught the imagination of other settlers, and by the time of the Revolution most states held a day of thanksgiving, albeit on different dates. In 1827, Sarah Josepha Hale (also author of the Nursery Rhyme "Mary had a little lamb" organised a campaign for a national holiday, and in 1863 Abraham Lincoln granted her request at the height of the Civil War, scheduling it for the last Thursday in November.

Thanksgiving remains the most traditional and family-orientated of America's holidays, one separated from any religious affiliations so that it can be enjoyed by all...except the turkeys.

PS: Here is a thanksgiving quiz from the BBC, and a more difficult version...

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