The History of Thanksgiving
In the early days of America, colonists faced a new and challenging environment. Many of the first settlers were unaccustomed to the difficulties of frontier life. Food was often scarce, and those first few harsh winters almost wiped out the entire settlement. Thankfully, that all changed once they began cooperating with their native neighbors. The colonists learned how to grow crops successfully in their new environment and store and stockpile food for long winter months. Thanksgiving Day is an annual festival observed on the fourth Thursday in November. It originated as a celebration of giving thanks for the abundant fall harvest. Although it is not a national holiday, it is widely recognized and celebrated throughout the United States and Canada. We have compiled everything you need to know about Thanksgiving: from its history as a harvest festival to modern-day celebrations.
The First Thanksgiving
The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Wampanoag Native Americans and the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony, who lived in what is now Massachusetts, in 1621. The Wampanoag Indians taught the Pilgrims how to catch eels, fish, and grow corn, a staple food for the Wampanoags. The Pilgrims and Wampanoags celebrated the successful harvest with a three-day feast, which they celebrated annually afterwards. The original thanksgiving celebration was not a single event, but rather the yearly harvest celebration that the Pilgrims and Wampanoags shared.
Native American Thanksgivings
Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate and be thankful for all the good things in our lives. But when do we start being grateful, and for what? It is a common misconception that we start being thankful on the day we celebrate as “Thanksgiving.” There are, in fact, many different kinds of thanksgivings that people practice at varying times in their lives. Thanksgiving is not exclusive to the people of America or even the people of the Western Hemisphere. It is found in many cultures across the globe. People have different ideas about the best times to give thanks, the best things to be thankful for, and even how it should be expressed.
1620: The First Thanksgiving
The first formal Thanksgiving in America occurred in 1620 near the city of Plymouth, Massachusetts. The Plymouth colony had been operating since 1620 and was made up primarily of members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Suddenly, the colony faced a food shortage. A harsh winter arrived early and killed many of their crops. As a result, the colony faced starvation. The Native Americans in the area saw their predicament and came to their aid. They taught the colonists to plant their crops differently (using a technique called “New England” planting, which meant planting corn, beans, and squash together in large holes) and how to fish and hunt in the New England weather.
17th Century Thanksgivings
Thanksgiving didn’t become a national holiday until the 19th century. From 1620 to the late 1800s, each U.S. colony celebrated its own Thanksgiving. And each colony celebrated it on a different date. In 1676, the territory of New York declared an official Thanksgiving after ending a deadly smallpox epidemic. During the 19th century, different Thanksgiving celebrations occurred sporadically. Several different states held celebrations in 1815 after the Battle of New Orleans. The War of 1812 also inspired celebrations in 1817 and 1819.
18th Century Thanksgivings
During the 18th century, Thanksgiving celebrations grew in popularity. Many states declared Thanksgivings annually, and some even celebrated them twice a year. In 1789, George Washington said the first national Thanksgiving, asking the nation to commemorate it on October 3. He declared it after ratifying the Constitution, officially making the United States a country.
19th Century Thanksgivings
During the 19th century, many Thanksgivings were held throughout the year. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln changed the celebration to the last Thursday of November. The change was meant to ease the burden of wartime harvest celebrations.
20th Century Thanksgivings
The 20th century brought new concerns to Thanksgiving. Urbanization and climatic change threatened the holiday. For example, New York City experienced a hot Thanksgiving in 1934 when the temperature reached a record high of 79 degrees Fahrenheit. In 1941, the nation’s first Thanksgiving Day parade was held in New York City. The train is now a yearly tradition, with millions of people viewing it on television.
In conclusion, Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate and be thankful for all the good things in our lives. It is a common misconception that we start being grateful on the day we celebrate as “Thanksgiving.” There are, in fact, many different kinds of thanksgivings that people practice at varying times in their lives. Thanksgiving has been practiced for thousands of years and is not exclusive to the people of America. It is found in many cultures across the globe.