I always thought that Thanksgiving was just a day to celebrate how thankful people are for their friends, their loved ones and just being alive. When I was asked by John Robinson (the blogger, not the Pilgrim – visit his blog, he will crack you up – link opens in a new tab or window) if we have something similar over here, I looked up just what Thanksgiving celebrates.
It turns out, I couldn’t be more wrong according to a couple of the websites I visited. This is a condensed version.
In the late 1500s to early 1600s, a group of people separated from the Church of England and became Separatists. They would meet in a manor in Scrooby, Nottinghamshire and were forced to relocate to Holland following persecution by the English authorities.
In 1618, they decide that they are going to head to America. They obtain a land permit and in 1620, the Mayflower and Speedwell start the journey across the sea. The Speedwell is forced to abandon the journey though due to the ship taking on water. Many of the passengers give up on the idea, but others join the Mayflower which becomes overcrowded with 102 passengers.
In December 1620, New Plymouth is founded by the people who would later become known as the Pilgrim Fathers. It is a bad winter and inadequate shelter along with disease claims the lives of 45 of the new arrivals.
In 1621, the Pilgrims meet with Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag Tribe and pledge peace with them. In exchange, the local tribe teaches them how to grow “The Sisters” – corn, beans, and squash.
November 1621, and only 53 of the original Pilgrims, of which only four were women, survive to celebrate the first Thanksgiving which was to give thanks for the new colonists and a good harvest.
Jump forward 243 years to October 20th 1864, and Abraham Lincoln issues a proclamation that sets aside the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and for all shops to close so everyone can celebrate it.
Three-quarters of a century later in 1939, and Franklin D Roosevelt changes the date to the fourth Thursday in November due to some months having five repetitions of the weekday. In 1941 Congress approves the change, and Thanksgiving Day is fully set.
Information comes from:
Thanksgiving: What’s the history of the holiday and why does the United States celebrate with a turkey dinner? – site
Pilgrim Fathers – site
The Amercian Presidency Project: Abraham Lincoln – site