A Brief History of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving originated as a harvest festival in New England during the early 17th century when the Wampanoag people gathered to give thanks for their successful harvest and to celebrate the return of summer after the long winter. It was first celebrated as an official United States holiday in 1863 after President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day to fall on the final Thursday of November as a day of giving thanks to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. In 1939, the president signed this proclamation making Thanksgiving an annual tradition.
The First Thanksgiving
The first recorded celebration of Thanksgiving in the New World occurred on December 4, 1619. The inhabitants of the Plymouth Colony had been struggling with a drought and a harsh winter during the year and their food supplies were almost gone. On this day, 38 members of the colony boarded three boats to venture to Pokanoket to meet with Wampanoag tribal leader Massasoit. They set off for what seemed like an impossible journey and yet they managed to find their destination after six days at sea. At this meeting, they gathered around a large feast that Massasoit had prepared for them in thanks for sharing in their harvest from that season.
The National Holiday
The history of Thanksgiving is a bit murky, but there are some things we do know. First, it was not celebrated as a national holiday until 1941. Second, the first official celebration was in 1621. It began as a day of giving thanks for the blessings of the harvest and of the preceding year. It soon became an annual tradition, with people gathering to share food and fellowship while they give thanks to God for all that He has done.
The Meaning of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in the United States, Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia. It began as a day of giving thanks for the blessings of the harvest and of the preceding year. In 1621, European settlers from England arrived in North America and established Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts. They had been given permission by King James I to take over uninhabited land. The first English settlements were Jamestown (in Virginia) and Plymouth (in Massachusetts). The Pilgrims who traveled to North America on the Mayflower had set sail from Plymouth in 1620 with 102 passengers; only 54 made it through their first winter alive.
Celebrating Thanksgiving Today
Thanksgiving is a day when we give thanks for the blessings in our lives and those who made the harvest possible. But do you know how the tradition started? The first recorded celebration of thanksgiving was in 1621 when Pilgrims gave thanks to their Native American hosts for showing them how to grow corn, squash, and beans. For many years this was celebrated with a special dinner as it is today, but it wasn’t until 1863 that President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day an official holiday.
Thanksgiving is traditionally celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. There are many other ways to celebrate this day such as volunteering with or donating to a food bank or giving back at your school by holding a canned food drive. What will you do to celebrate this year?
The first day of November was chosen because it would give people time to prepare their crops for the winter, but there is still debate on when and where the first thanksgiving actually took place. There are records of pilgrim families who were living in Plymouth, Massachusetts celebrating a thanksgiving feast in 1621. Another record from 1623 suggests that the first formal celebration was organized by Governor Edward Winslow. Some also believe that there may have been an earlier thanksgiving, even as far back as 1565 in Newfoundland.
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