Thanks Giving


Welcome to In 1621, the

In 1621, the  thanks giving colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn

harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving

Celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of

Thanksgiving was celebrated by individual colonies and states with respect and honor. It wasn’t until

1863, Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln claimed

a national Thanksgiving Day is held each November 2016.



In September 1620, a small ship called  Mayflower left Plymouth, England,

carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a

new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals

Lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After

a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped

anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the

The mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower

crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly

known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.


Did You Know?

Lobster, seal, an astonishing and swans were on the Pilgrims’s menu.

Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board

the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy, and outbreaks of

contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and

crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining

settlers moved ashore, where an unusual visit from an

Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned

with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who

had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before

escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory

expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness,

how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and

avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the

Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and

tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European

colonists and Native Americans.


In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful,

Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group

of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag

chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first

Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term

at the time—the festival lasted for three days. While no record exists of the

historic banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in

his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in

preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing

five deer. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely

prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods.

Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s sugar supply had

dwindled by the fall of 1621, the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other

desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations.

Check out the Thanksgiving by the Numbers infographic for more facts about

how the first Thanksgiving compares to modern holiday traditions.




Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in 1623 to mark the end

of a long drought that had threatened the year’s harvest and prompted

Governor Bradford to call for a religious fast. Days of fasting and thanksgiving

on an annual or occasional basis became common practice in other New

England settlements as well. During the American Revolution, the Continental

Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year, and in

1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the

national government of the United States; in it, he called upon Americans to

express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of

independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. His

successors John Adams and James Madison also designated days of thanks

during their presidencies.

In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an

annual Thanksgiving holiday each celebrated it on a different day, however,

and the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition. In

1827, the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha

Hale—author, among countless other things, of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had

a Little Lamb”—launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national

holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of

letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians. Abraham

Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a

proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender

care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in

the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He

scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November, and it was

celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when Franklin D.

Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales

during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan, known derisively as

Franksgiving, was met with passionate opposition, and in 1941 the president

reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in


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