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


JNR is a full service, globally recognized leader in the incentive industry offering solutions for Meetings and Conferences, Incentive Travel, Special Events and Entertainment, Prepaid Card Services and AXS Contact Center Solutions. We have over 36 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies across many industries. Our clients trust our comprehensive suite of solutions that offer a better way to reach performance, productivity and loyalty objectives. JNR tends to every detail of your program to ensure an extraordinary experience for your customers, employees and participants and a favorable return on your investment. We allow you to step away from the logistical details and let you focus on what you do best.


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

The True Meaning of Thanksgiving

I love the Fall, the cooler weather, the vibrant colors and Thanksgiving, being grateful for our blessings, no presents, no expectations – just getting together with family and friends, gathering around a picturesque table, partaking in a splendid meal and feeling safe while sharing pleasant and personal conversation.

Thanksgiving is a day for caring, as personal connections are becoming rare with our mobile culture. People are becoming isolated, less connected and possibly less cared for, thus sharing basic human interaction is essential and what better time than Thanksgiving?

What comes to mind when you think of Thanksgiving? Do you picture a time of thankfulness toward God and/or your fellow man and woman—or is it merely one of eating, partying and watching football? This day was established for celebrating our blessings. We can not let its meaning slowly deteriorate under a cloud of media hype, sales pitches, marketing tactics and blitz commercialism. We must hold on to our human kinship. We can certainly enjoy all the surrounding festivities, but must keep true priorities in sync.

The Pilgrims could never have imagined America would become the global superpower it is today, where we enjoy the freedoms of religion and speech and welcome individuals and families to emigrate and enjoy these same liberties. We are the first country in support of others. So let’s support one another.

Speaking of Pilgrims…In 1621, on the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts, do you think they and their Wampanoag Indian guests dined on turkey dinners, cranberries, candied yams, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie like most Americans and Canadians do today? Their three-day harvest celebration included deer and wildfowl leaving most of today’s classic Thanksgiving dishes off the table.

Popular myths aside, potatoes—white or sweet—would not have been featured, and neither would sweet corn. Neither was bread stuffing though the Pilgrims may have used herbs or nuts to stuff birds. The table would have been loaded with native fruits like plums, melons, grapes and cranberries, plus local vegetables such as leeks, wild onions, beans, Jerusalem artichokes and squash. For the starring dishes, undoubtedly they included native birds and game as well as the Wampanoag gift of five deer, along with fish and shellfish.

Pilgrims roasted and boiled food. Can’t you imagine venison and whole wildfowl roasting on spits over hot glowing coals, while large brass pots of stews and vegetables were simmering in the household hearth?

In 1789 Federal Congress realized our nation should have a day of Thanksgiving and passed a resolution asking President George Washington to issue a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789 as a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin” – the first time Thanksgiving was celebrated under the new Constitution. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln stated that Thanksgiving was to be regularly commemorated the last Thursday of November. In 1939, the last Thursday in November fell on the last day of the month. Concerned the shortened Christmas shopping season might dampen economic recovery; President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a Proclamation moving Thanksgiving to the second to last Thursday of November. On October 6, 1941, the House passed a joint resolution and agreed to an amendment whereas President Roosevelt signed the resolution on December 26, 1941, establishing the fourth Thursday in November as the Federal Thanksgiving Day holiday. Thank goodness all that changing is over with.

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, consider the many wonderful blessings you enjoy. Be thankful, whether in prayer or in thought, be sincere in the same heartfelt manner that the Pilgrims and Indians shared on their first Thanksgiving in North America. Gather with family and friends to give thanks for our many, many blessings. Let’s all do our best to keep the true meaning of Thanksgiving, to enjoy each others company and to share with one another in gratitude.

By LuAnn Jalet


JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom incentive travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies in many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.