The First Thanksgiving


Happy Thanksgiving

On Sept 6, 1620, the Mayflower leaves Plymouth Harbor in England and begins its 3,000 mile voyage destined for Virginia. Violent autumn storms damage the ship and blow it off course. Land is sighted on Nov 9, 1620 and the first stop is made at Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The Pilgrims sign the Mayflower Compact to establish a civil government, because they have settled outside their original chartered territory. John Carver is chosen as the first governor.

The Pilgrims arrived in the New World during the winter, making it very difficult for them to find food and build shelter. Already weakened by their two-month voyage, most of the passengers failed to survive the first few months in their new homes. Fortunately, native people called Wampanoag, or “eastern peoples,” already lived in the Massachusetts Bay area. They shared their knowledge of local crops and navigation with the “coat-men,” as they called the English, and helped the colonists survive. The English colonists we call Pilgrims celebrated days of thanksgiving as part of their religion. But these were days of prayer, not days of feasting.

In 1621, the Plymouth colonists harvest their first crops and decide to celebrate the abundance of food with a feast with the Wampanoag Indians. This autumn harvest feast is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. It is thought that the Native American Indians outnumbered the Plymouth colonists nearly two to one on the first Thanksgiving, which lasted for three days. Contrary to popular belief, even though wild turkeys were around during the first Thanksgiving feast, they were not served. Instead, the feast consisted of various seafood, deer, corn, eggs, squash, spices, popcorn and squashed cranberries.

For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. For 17 years, Sarah Hale campaigned with letter-writing to make the last Thursday of November a national Thanksgiving Day holiday.  It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, after the Union’s victories, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November. In September he received a letter from Hale and declared the last Thursday of November to be the official national holiday.

This holiday season remember those that sacrificed so that we may have plenty. It is a time for sharing and spreading happiness.As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” –John F. Kennedy

Sources: /scholastic/thanksgiving/feast – “The First Thanksgiving” /topics/thanksgiving – “Thanksgiving” /thanksgiving-trivia “Thanksgiving History & Facts” /thankful-thanksgiving-quotes “30 Thankful Quotes and Wishes”


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