The History of Thanksgiving


How did it all begin? 

Many of pilgrims that originally sailed to America aboard the Mayflower were members of the English Separatist Church. They left their homes in England and first traveled to Holland to flee from religious persecution. In Holland, they did enjoy more open-mindedness concerning religion, but they also did not agree with the way of the Dutch people and believed them to be ungodly. These Separatists while still searching for a better life called upon a London stock company to aid in financing their journey to America. Aboard the Mayflower, the Separatists along with the hired hands from the London stock company came to America. These pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620.

They arrived with 102 souls onboard and began to build their way of life. The very first winter was overwhelming and before the harvest, they had lost 46 people. The cold winter, the illnesses, and lack of proper shelters were to blame. The pilgrims had it very rough and without the aid of 91 Indians, many more people would have perished.

The harvest of 1621 was abundant and the pilgrims decided to celebrate with a feast in which the 91 Indians were also included. This first celebration was more like the traditional English harvest festival than we observe today. This first Thanksgiving lasted three entire days!

No one knows the exact food that was prepared on this first Thanksgiving feast but it is noted that Governor William Bradford did send four men out to hunt for wild ducks and geese. The term turkey, during the time of the pilgrims, was used for any type of wild fowl. The feast was more than likely made up of fish, berries, watercress, lobster, dried fruit, clams, venison, and plums. Pumpkin could have been an entrée but not in the form of pumpkin pie that we enjoy. They would have eaten it boiled. The only type of bread they could have had was a type of fried bread made from corn. The pilgrims did not have the luxury of running down to the corner market to purchase items that were needed to prepare such things that needed milk, flour and sugar.

Thanksgiving like this one would only be repeated one more time in which the Indians would be invited, after a prayer service for rain. The Governor once again proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving.

No other Thanksgiving Day celebrations included the Indians. On June 20th, 1676, another day of Thanksgiving was proclaimed. This time the governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts held a meeting to decide on how best to convey thanks for the fortune their community had established. On this day, June 29th was proclaimed to be the day of Thanksgiving.

In 1789, George Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving, but many were against the idea. Even President Thomas Jefferson mocked the idea of a Thanksgiving Day.

The Thanksgiving Day that we celebrate today is because of the determination of Sarah Josepha Hale. Sarah was the magazine editor of the Boston Ladies Magazine and through her 40-year undying crusade of writing editorials and letters to governors and presidents what we know as Thanksgiving Day became a reality. President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving in 1863. Finally, in 1941, Congress sanctioned the fourth Thursday of November to be the legal holiday for Thanksgiving Day.

The History of Thanksgiving

The History of Thanksgiving

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