Today, countries such as the United States and Canada are celebrating Thanksgiving Day, as was the tradition for centuries. Read on if you're wondering how this yearly celebration began!
What many now consider to be the “First Thanksgiving” was actually nothing like the predominantly North American holiday observed today. Some also say that even the Pilgrims who celebrated it did not consider it to be a “Thanksgiving” event in the religious sense.
The so-called “First Thanksgiving” in the United States was often pointed to a celebration for a good harvest held in Autumn of 1621 at Plymouth in present day’s Massachusetts. However, historians say that the three-day banquet shared by Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians probably did not include turkey, the Thanksgiving staple. Instead, they most likely had roasted goose, corn, codfish, and lobster.
Even so, history mentions that the later versions of the holiday in New England became rooted in the English tradition of prayer, fasting, and religious services for giving thanks to God during in the days of Protestant Reformation. There were also thanksgiving celebrations held for other occasions like good harvests, successful battles, and rains after drought.
In 1777, the Continental Congress agreed that all 13 colonies of America should observe a national day of thanksgiving. Even so, it was only through the efforts of influential American writer Sarah Josepha Hale that the idea of a single and unified thanksgiving celebration materialized. Drawing inspiration from the 1621 Plymouth feast, she campaigned tirelessly to politicians for more than 20 years for an annual Thanksgiving holiday with a specific date. President Abraham Lincoln rewarded her efforts and acknowledged her idea that a celebration as such could unite a nation faced with civil war. In 1863, he declared that the last Thursday of November be a national holiday, and with it, Thanksgiving Day was born.
Happy Thanksgiving Day, and may your feasts be bountiful, yummy, and merry!