Thanksgiving: An American Holiday, an American History. Thanksgiving is traditionally a harvest festival. Thanksgiving Day celebration has a rich history with multiple views. Forbes, Bruce David. She included two chapters on Thanksgiving in her novel Northwood: Life North and South and, using the growing readership of her magazine as a base of influence, published stories, poems, cooking advice, and more for Thanksgiving in Godey’s Lady’s Book starting in 1846. The Pilgrims had struggled bravely through a grim winter with much sickness and little food. A Short History of Thanksgiving (Holiday Histories) Paperback – Illustrated, August 1, 2015 by Sally Ann Lee (Author) 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 rating In 1620, 120 passengers including the English Puritans now referred to as the Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic Ocean and established the Plymouth Colony in the southeastern portion of contemporary Massachusetts. In that year Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving. Over time people worldwide have shared thanks with friends and family. While individual presidents continued the tradition of proclaiming the last Thursday in November Thanksgiving, the holiday still lacked legal status. With the help of the local Wampanoag tribe and a native man named Squanto, the remaining Pilgrims learned to farm corn and built up a supply of food to last through a second winter. A Short History of Thanksgiving: From Pilgrim Myth to Modern Celebration Do you recall the story of the first Thanksgiving? Come Thanksgiving Day each year, many of us give the nod to Pilgrims and Indians and talk of making ready for a harsh first winter in the New World. Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving  Recipes and History, from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie. As a US citizen living in Europe, I … They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week, at which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their great king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. Most do not show off their shooting skills; parades, football, and other sports fill the time before and after eating instead. The area surrounding the site of the first Thanksgiving, now known as southeastern Massachusetts and eastern Rhode Island, had been the home of the Wampanoag people for over 12,000 years, and had been visited by other European settlers before the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620. The Real Story of Thanksgiving would be useful for U.S. History, American Culture, and Social Studies courses. Its discovery prompted a greater American interest in the history of the Pilgrims. Since I was the only one who knew what the holiday was all about, they asked me to prepare a short history of Thanksgiving to share with them. The colonists celebrated it as a traditional English harvest feast, to which they invited the local Wampanoag Indians. However, the feasting, diplomacy, and recreation described by Winslow were typical of a harvest feast and not of a thanksgiving as the Puritans recognized the term. But for the Christian, the deepest roots of our thanksgiving go back to the Old World, way back before the Pilgrims, to a story as old as creation, with a two-millennia-old climax. Furthermore, little is known for sure about the feast except for the single-paragraph account recorded in a letter dated December 12, 1621 written by Edward Winslow, one of the Separatist leaders of Plymouth Colony: “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labors. And coming up on Thursday, Thanksgiving. It really was an abundance of riches, a meal worth remembering on a yearly basis. Four Puritan men hunted fowl, probably geese, ducks, and wild turkey. Others pinpoint 1637 as the true origin of Thanksgiving, owing to the fact that the Massachusetts colony governor John Winthrop declared a day to celebrate colonial soldiers who had just slaughtered hundreds of Pequot men, women, and children in what is now Mystic, Connecticut. The fictionalized tale provides an origin myth for the United States, but one that is not without controversy. New York: Facts on File Publications. The exact date of the feast, which took part in Plymouth, known to the native people as Patuxet, is unknown and could have occurred any time in the fall of 1621 after the harvest, most likely between September and November. Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and the second Monday of October in Canada.It is celebrated as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. However, the first instance of a Thanksgiving Day during the nineteenth century was in 1815 when President James Madison proclaimed a day to celebrate the end of the War of 1812. The celebration of 1621 was also all but forgotten, the story playing no part in thanksgivings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The confusion continued in 1940 and 1941. She died in 1879, long before Thanksgiving gained legal status in 1941. At the time, a thanksgiving was solemn day of prayer and worship to thank God for a special blessing. By focusing on the Pilgrims, the myth of the first Thanksgiving fails to recognize the contributions and history of native people, Americans who lived in America long before the birth of the young nation. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and we thought we could offer you a list of great Thanksgiving short stories to read! Much like the feast of 1621, people all over the country engage in recreational activities. In September 1620, 102 religious separatists set off on a small ship (the Mayflower, of course) from Plymouth, England, and landed near Cape Cod 66 very uncomfortable days later. Yes, turkey was served at the first Thanksgiving dinner. The United States has observed Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Thanksgiving is a national holiday that reflects the culture and tradition that has been created in the United States. THE DAILY MEAL ® IS A REGISTERED TRADEMARK OF TRIBUNE PUBLISHING. Later New Englanders would attend two church services on days of thanksgiving. Cranberries are native to New England, but, if the Puritans ate cranberries, the tart fruit would have been unsweetened due to a lack of sugar and most likely used to sharpen broths and sauces, not in the sweetened cranberry sauce of today. Most people recognize the Mayflower pilgrims feasting with the Wampanoag Indians at Plymouth Rock as the “first” Thanksgiving in 1620. Retailers asked Roosevelt to move the date back one week to lengthen the Christmas shopping season. He taught the malnourished settlers how to cultivate corn, catch fish, forage, extract maple sap, and avoid poisonous plants. Puritans also proclaimed fast days during which people fasted, prayed, repented for their sins, and asked God for help. While April 13, 1815 marked the final national day of thanksgiving for the young nation for almost five decades, individual cities, states, and territories continued to declare thanksgivings throughout the years. In March, those that survived moved ashore, where several days later they were met by a Pawtuxet Native American who, several years earlier, had been kidnapped by a sea captain, sold into slavery, escaped to London, then found his way back home on an exploratory expedition, learning English along the way. We have been planning our costumes for months. The practice really took off as New Englanders spread throughout the growing country. By 1850, one and a half million people had relocated from New England to western New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois as well as in the south and western territories. In 1609, a group of Pilgrims left England for the religious freedom in Holland where they lived and prospered. Then in December 1941, Congress passed and Roosevelt signed into law an official national date for Thanksgiving: the fourth Thursday in November. The first American Thanksgiving probably took place in New England. It is a time of turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and love. She wrote at least two dozen books and the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” among other accomplishments. The History of the First Thanksgiving: http://historyofmassachusetts.org/the-first-thanksgiving/, A Short History of Thanksgiving: From Pilgrim Myth to Modern Celebration: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:N.C._Wyeth_-_Thanksgiving_with_Indians_(detail).jpg {{PD-US}} and https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Turkey_and_gourds_(30885781610).jpg (CC0 1.0). Both the terms first Thanksgiving and Pilgrim became increasingly conflated with the harvest feast celebrated by the Puritans from the nineteenth century on. New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers. The exact date of the festival is unknown, but it most likely happened sometime between September 21 and November 9. 1984. In 1970, the United American Indians of New England (UAINE) organized the inaugural National Day of Mourning to protest the continued misrepresentation of Native American and colonial experience, including the “first Thanksgiving” story. George Washington declared two days of thanksgiving during his presidency. Appelbaum, Diana Karter. Both often occurred on a Thursday to avoid the Sabbath and the days before and after. The United States finally had a national Thanksgiving Day. Although Thanksgiving celebrations dated back to the first European settlements in America, it was not until the 1860s that Abraham Lincoln declared the … Hale also worked tirelessly to establish Thanksgiving as a national American holiday. In many homes, a big dinner of roast turkey and dressing is served. Thanksgiving is not without controversy, with the social upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s causing many social activists to question the appropriateness of the day. Thanksgiving was made an official national holiday by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, thanks to the work of Sarah J. Hale, an editor of a popular ladies magazine of the time. No annual celebrations of thanksgiving yet existed. The Story of Thanksgiving The Pilgrims, who celebrated the first thanksgiving in America, were fleeing religious persecution in their native England. On that day the Massachusetts Colony Governor, John Winthrop, proclaimed such a "Thanksgiving" to celebrate the safe return of a band of heavily armed hunters, all colonial volunteers. Last Updated August 13, 2020. Details lacking aside, the celebration of 1621 was also not a thanksgiving in the minds of the English Puritans. Families may want to watch this program together and discuss the history of the Thanksgiving holiday. Many colonists stayed aboard the ship as the weather turned colder, and about half of them didn’t make it through the winter. John Adams and James Madison also recommended national thanksgivings, but no more presidential thanksgiving proclamations occurred for the next forty-eight years of the early United States. Oakland: University of California Press. Interestingly, nowhere in the text of President Lincoln’s proclamation is any mention of Pilgrims and Indigenous tribes. Protests continue today in light of the racism, sexism, classism, and bigotry still rampant in American society. Modern Thanksgiving is a hodgepodge of traditions and flavors. The First Thanksgiving by Albert F. Blaisdell. In September of 1620, Separatists arrived to the New World after Do you recall the story of the first Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving: A Brief History of an American Tradition, This holiday has a long and fascinating history, Transform Weekend Brunch With 10-Minute Blueberry Syrup. It is celebrated each year on the fourth Thursday in November. The attendees spent time doing recreational activities including firing weapons. Read 7 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. If all that remains of the autumn events of 1621 is a short account in a single letter, how did Thanksgiving actually start in the United States? The next month they set up a colony farther south, near Massachusetts Bay, still far north of their intended destination of Manhattan Island. Curtin, Kathleen, Sandra L. Oliver, and Plimoth Plantation. Here’s (briefly) what we do know. The road to modern Thanksgiving is filled with missteps, misinformation, and many winding paths that eventually come together to form the celebration of today. Their story of the 1621 Plymouth celebration portrays historical events in a brief, appealing format for young children. Likewise, pumpkin would have been served mashed or boiled in the early years of the nation but would eventually form the basis of the ubiquitous pumpkin pie once additional food supplies arrived from Europe on ships. The Pilgrims came over from England and landed at Plymouth Rock, had a bad winter, Squanto taught them to plant crops, they had a harvest festival, and now we celebrate it every year, The First Thanksgiving was published in Short Stories from American History (1905) by Blaisdell & Ball. It was celebrated by the Pilgrim settlers, who established Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts in 1620. The tradition continued each year until 1939. It is appropriate for 6th grade and above. Americans celebrated a national day of Thanksgiving for many years before it was officially recognized, but it was a magazine editor named Sarah Joseph Hale who was responsible for leading the charge to get the holiday on the books, and in 1863 Abraham Lincoln declared that the last Thursday in November would officially be celebrated as Thanksgiving Day. In the fall of 1863, Lincoln also declared another day of thanksgiving, one very different from previous proclamations. 'Turkey Makes You Sleepy' and More Thanksgiving Myths, 'Erntedankfest,' or a German Thanksgiving, You Won't Believe What the Pilgrims Really Ate on Thanksgiving Slideshow. A Brief History of Thanksgiving. The First Thanksgiving The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621, to commemorate the harvest reaped by the Plymouth Colony after a harsh winter. The celebration lasted at least three days. From a humble beginning as a solemn day of prayer and worship, the holiday transformed into a day of family, friends, and feasting. Bradford's History was rediscovered in 1854 after having been taken by British looters during the Revolutionary War. The history of Thanksgiving is not as simple as a national holiday springing forth from Pilgrims sitting down with Native Americans to enjoy a celebratory feast. The harvest celebration of 1621 celebrated by the Puritans of Plymouth was neither a Thanksgiving nor the first. After a devastating first winter in the New World, only 53 of the original colonists remained, the other half having died from disease and starvation. There is something for everyone! This happy occasion is labeled Thanksgiving. Not all states accepted the change. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”. (More accurately, Thanksgiving is one of ten federal holidays because, unlike in many other countries, the American Congress has the power to create holidays for federal institutions only.) He also brokered peace with the local Wampanoag tribe, and the resulting 50-year peace is one of the few examples of harmony between natives and settlers. The big meal remains the centerpiece of the celebration, as does the gathering of family and friends. On this day, families gather together, and many people say prayers of thanks for the years blessings. They first held a celebration of their harvest in 1621. Yes, the history of Thanksgiving has its American origins at Plymouth, Massachusetts in the autumn of 1621. The holiday is one of few that all Americans can celebrate together.