The History of Thanksgiving in the United States

The History of Thanksgiving in the United States

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The first American thanksgiving took place in 1621 between the Plymouth colony and the Indians. However, it wasn’t until 1863 that it became a national holiday. Just what do you know of the history of Thanksgiving and how it has become one of the biggest holidays in the United States?

And no, the history of the American Thanksgiving is not the same as that of the Canadian Thanksgiving.


There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Turkey!

The Mayflower, Plymouth Colonists, and the Native Americans

When 102 passengers made it from Plymouth to the New World on the Mayflower, nobody thought that Thanksgiving would ever be needed. The new people just wanted to practice their faith and build a prosperous future in the new land. It took 66 days to get across the Atlantic, and the didn’t even end up where they initially wanted to! Their intended target was the Hudson River, but they cross Massachusetts Bay instead.

For the first winter, most colonists remained on the ship. Contagious diseases passed between them, and only half of the passengers made it to the land in the first spring. It was only then that they met the first Abenaki Indian, who even greeted them in English. He then brought another, Squanto from the Pawtuxet tribe. Squanto had been kidnapped and sold into slavery by the English, but did manage to make it back to his homeland.

He didn’t hold a grudge. Squanto instead taught the Pilgrims about cultivating corn and methods to catch fish. He helped with the alliance with the local Wampanoag tribe, which would lead to 50 years of harmony between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans.

Not all of history involving the Native Americans and the colonists is bad. There’s just far more bad than good.


Baby My First Thanksgiving Bodysuit and Pants Outfit with Hat/Headband (70(0-6M))

Celebrating the First Thanksgiving

In 1621, the first corn harvest was successful. It was a time for a feast, and Governor William Bradford invited the Native Americans to that feast, as a thank you for the help that they had offered.

It wasn’t likely called a thanksgiving at the time, and we don’t really know what food was on offer during the three-day feast. There are entries in a diary of men being sent on a “fowling” mission and five deer were brought by the Wampanoag tribe.

There wouldn’t have been any desserts or pies. Not only had the sugar supply diminished considerably by this point, but there was no oven for cooking the desserts.

The Official Thanksgiving Holiday

It wasn’t until 1623 that another feast took place. This was after a long drought that threatened harvest of the year. Governor Bradford wanted a religious fast. This soon led to colonists fasting and then feasting on a regular basis, but it wasn’t an official national event.

There was a suggestion after the American Revolutionary War to make it a national event. George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789 as a gratitude to the outcome of the war. However, he and his successors didn’t agree with dedicating a day of thanksgiving nationally.

Over the years, various states adopted a day of thanksgiving personally. The campaign for a national day of thanks was started, but it wasn’t until 1863 after the Civil War that Abraham Lincoln finally agreed that it could happen.

Thanksgiving was set for the fourth Thursday in November. There was an attempt to change that date to the third Thursday during the Great Depression, as Franklin D. Roosevelt believed it might improve sales since it was further away from Christmas. That didn’t last due to the passionate opposition. Just five years later, the date was moved back to the fourth Thursday.

Traditions have changed over the years since then. The turkey with all the trimmings is now the most commonly consumed dinner in American homes for the day. The Friday after has become known as Black Friday, with people queuing outside of shops from midnight and earlier to get the best deals in the stores.

Did you know the history of Thanksgiving in the United States? Will you be celebrating it this year?

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