The Invention of an American Tradition: Thanksgiving

Like every society and modern state, the United States has a number of “traditions,” many of them inherited from its immigrant cultures and some of them invented on American soil. But regardless of their origins, the process of tradition is obviously at work if we look more carefully at the introduction of the “tradition” and its evolution over time. Further, the social and political functions of tradition also become clear: society needs “traditions” to achieve social integration, establish and implant social memories, and produce the proper kind of national citizen. In fact, the great era of the invention of traditions in the U.S., and in many other parts of the world, was the late 1800s and early 1900s, as elements of the overall “nation-building” process intended to create national unity and to instill self-awareness and national pride in its members. This essay discusses the Thanksgiving traditions of America.