The History behind Thanksgiving

While you get excited for the delicious meal you are going to consume today, take a moment to be reminded of the history behind this holiday.

What people commonly refer to as the “First Thanksgiving” occurred in 1621 when the Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest in Plymouth with a feast. It is reported that it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims.

When the Pilgrims first arrived in New England they spent the first few months living on the Mayflower to try and make it through the harsh winter. Many of the passengers died of exposure, scurvy and other diseases. In spring, those who had made it through the winter, moved onto the land where they were greeted by an Abenaki Indian who introduced them to a member of the Pawtuxet tribe, Squanto. Squanto helped the Pilgrims forge a harmonious relationship with the Wampanoag tribe and taught them how to cultivate the land, extract sap from maple trees, fish in local rivers and avoid poisonous plants. Without this hospitality, life in this new land would have been extremely difficult.

Thanks to this relationship, the Pilgrim’s first harvest was a success and the celebration, that included Native Americans from many tribes, lasted three days.

Over the years their colony expanded across America but it wasn’t until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln declared a national Thanksgiving Day to be held in November each year and created the start of the modern Thanksgiving celebration. Although there may not have been pumpkin pies served at the first Thanksgiving, we are sure that the Pilgrims would have approved of a holiday centered abound being with loved ones and taking time to be thankful.


Written by Stephanie Thomas


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Picture: “A Blessed Thanksgiving To All!” by John is licensed by CC by 2.0.