Thanksgiving Day

TG1Although you can find various stories about the original Thanksgiving, this harvest celebration of pilgrims and Native Americans took place in the autumn of 1621. The first Thanksgiving was a three-day feast in celebration of a good harvest, and the local natives participated. Although there were earlier feasts by settlers in Saint Augustine, Florida and the Virginia Colony, it is this event that is the one that is celebrated.

The Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620. Their first winter was devastating. Most of the pilgrims who came by the Mayflower didn’t make it through the winter. Native Americans took pity on the travelers and taught them survivalist skills in the new world. This included planting and harvesting corn, the staple of the area. The remaining 56 colonists decided to celebrate their first good harvest with a feast and invited Squanto and the leader of the Wampanoags, Chief Massasoit along with 90 natives who had helped them survive their first year. They also discussed a treaty among themselves at that time. The feast was more of a traditional English harvest festival than a true “thanksgiving” observance and lasted three days. A few years later, Governor William Bradford called for another Thanksgiving feast and once again invited the natives.

George Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789, although some were opposed to it. The event was made a holiday in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln became the first president to proclaim the final Thursday of November Thanksgiving Day and a national holiday. In December 26, 1941, the date was changed to the fourth Thursday in November. President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed to sign the bill into law with Congress, making Thanksgiving a national holiday on the fourth (not final) Thursday in November.

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