Thanksgiving History

A History of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving HistoryThanksgiving is one of the best-loved days on the American calendar. Everybody looks forward to it. It’s a day that families get together to “give thanks” for the bounty that most of us living in the United States enjoy each and every year. It’s a fun day, filled with stuffed turkeys, mashed potatoes, turnips, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie for dessert, football on the TV for the men … and a great time for every family member.

The tradition of Thanksgiving has been around for a very long time, too … since the first year the Pilgrims arrived in “the Americas.” That year was 1620, nearly four hundred years ago. They had come to America from England to escape religious persecution and to establish a new colony … and a new and better life.

History notes that they were ill-prepared for what they faced that first year. There were only one hundred and two Pilgrims, just 100 after two of their number perished on the trip across the Atlantic Ocean on the Mayflower.  Nevertheless, the Pilgrims were thankful to have reached the new land and determined to “express their happiness” in a new way – a day of Thanksgiving.

Interestingly, the first Thanksgiving, which may have included “Indian “guests,” may not have had turkey as the centerpiece of the meal. What’s more, the feast took place in August, while the weather was still warm, not in November as is the case today.

The Pilgrims and the Indians were able to peacefully co-exist in that first year which was vitally important to their survival. The feast, or Thanksgiving, was a way for the Pilgrims to show appreciation for all of their good fortune – a new life free of persecution … new skills taught to them by the Indians (hunting, fishing, farming) …  and the belief that a bright and happier future awaited all of them.

It can be said that “the first Thanksgiving” was a great success. Everybody ate their fill, enjoyed the fruits of their good fortune and the camaraderie and goodwill that existed between the two distinctly different cultures. But, that Thanksgiving was not the same as the Thanksgiving we all celebrate today.

The real Thanksgiving became an idea – and a reality – more than one hundred years after that first celebration enjoyed by the Pilgrims and the Indians. It actually occurred in the mid-18th Century when this new custom began to take place annually. It wasn’t an offical holiday, but people enjoyed the custom and observed it every year – after the fall harvest.

And then, in 1777, just one year after the birth of the United States, its first President, George Washington, declared Thanksgiving to be a National Holiday. Established as a way to celebrate the good fortune that was enjoyed by all Americans in “their land of plenty,” it quickly became one of America’s favorite and most-anticipated annual holidays.

More than 230 years have passed since George Washington created Thanksgiving. And yet, it continues to be one of the favorite days for Americans, a fact not likely to change any time soon.