From Pilgrims, Plymouth, and the May Flower to Turkey Day, Football, and Parades
The history of Thanksgiving steers far away from today’s traditions. It is the story of the Mayflower and separatists fleeing England for the new world. It began in 1620 as the Mayflower sailed away from Plymouth, England with 102 hopeful passengers. These passengers were seeking religious freedom and land ownership. They believed they could find all of this in the New World. The trip from Plymouth was devastating. The ship sailed for over 60 days before they reached their destination. Their new home of Plymouth was established. The Pilgrims had a long road ahead of them. The trip from England had taken a toll on their bodies. Many had not survived. The new land brought challenges. They needed to find a way to survive.
The first winter in the New World crushed the Pilgrims who did not have the resources to survive. Many did not live to see their first spring. History tells us the first native visitors came during this time. It was here they showed the Pilgrims how to live off of the land. The story tells us of Squanto, an English speaking native who played a vital role in helping the settlers. He showed them how to grow corn and to utilize the resources they had available.
The first Thanksgiving took place after the corn harvest in 1621. We do not know what the meal consisted of. We can only imagine they used what they had available at that time including deer, waterfowl, corn, and other basic dishes. This event is said to have lasted three days. 1623 was the year the second Thanksgiving celebration took place. It was held after making it through a drought that had put pressure of that year’s corn harvest. The harvest was crucial to the survival of Plymouth’s settlers.
Thanksgiving celebrations slowly became common amongst settlements in New England and eventually the colonies. Early political icons such as George Washington, James Madison, and John Adams all implemented days of thanks and celebration for their countries freedom and victory during the revolutionary war.
Thanksgiving was finally made a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Lincoln called upon Americans to celebrate a day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November. At this time the holiday still had a deep religious meaning. The Civil War was occurring at this time and the holiday was directed at asking god to help all of the people who had lost loved ones and to heal the country.
Today Thanksgiving does not have all of the same traditions or meaning that it once had. It still brings together family and friends to give thanks and celebrate over a meal for all. Thanksgiving parades and football games are traditions of our time. The holiday still maintains a special message, and that is to give thanks for all that we have.
Learn more about Thanksgiving Traditions
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