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The Backstory of Thanksgiving

November 20, 2020

Thanksgiving has occurred on the fourth Thursday of November for what seems to be forever, but it hasn’t always been a national holiday. In fact, even though the first Thanksgiving was in 1621, Thanksgiving was only declared an official holiday to be celebrated in November in 1863 during the Civil War by President Abraham Lincoln, but it wasn’t until 1941 that the 4th Thursday of each November was declared the official date of Thanksgiving. 

The first Thanksgiving was in Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts in the year of 1621 about a year after the Pilgrims first came to the Americas searching for a place where they could freely practice their religion. During this time in between, the Pilgrims made friends with the Native Americans who lived there. This happened when the winter ended and they met an English-speaking Abenaki Native American who greeted them. A little bit later he came back with another Native American, from the Pawtuxet tribe, named Squanto. Squanto originally had been taken from his homeland by an English sea captain and sold into slavery, but then he escaped and made his way back home. Squanto helped the Pilgrims, who lost over half of their original 102 people from the harsh winter and infectious diseases, learn how to farm, catch fish, and how to survive. Another step he helped them with was becoming allies and friends with the neighboring tribes that they shared the land with. 

That November of 1621 the Pilgrims’ celebrated their first corn harvest. Their current governor at the time (William Bradford) decided to host an honorary feast to celebrate their harvest. He invited all of their Native American allies and friends and the Wampanoag Chief Massasoit. This is the event that we now consider the “first Thanksgiving”. One difference though is that the celebration lasted around three days, when we now only celebrate one day.

Another bit of information is that they ended up celebrating another Thanksgiving in 1623 when a drought that compromised their crops and caused them to fast ended. 

Today we consider Thanksgiving as a time to be grateful, spend time with family, and to stuff ourselves full of delicious foods. 

With COVID-19 though, will we be able to do things the same as last year? Or will we be seasoning everything with flavored disinfectant sprays? 

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