Most stories of Thanksgiving history start with the harvest celebration of the pilgrims and the Native Americans that took place in the autumn of 1621. Although they did havea three-day feast in celebration of a good harvest, and the local natives did participate, this "first thanksgiving" was not a holiday, simply a gathering. There is little evidence that this feast ofthanks led directly to our modern Thanksgiving Day holiday. Thanksgiving can, however, be traced back to 1863 when Pres. Lincoln became the first president to proclaim Thanksgiving Day. The holidayhas been a fixture of late November ever since.
However, since most school children are taught that the first Thanksgiving was held in 1621 with the Pilgrims and Indians, let us take a closerlook at just what took place leading up to that event, and then what happened in the centuries afterward that finally gave us our modern Thanksgiving.
The Pilgrims who sailed to this countryaboard the Mayflower were originally members of the English Separatist Church (a Puritan sect). They had earlier fled their home in England and sailed to Holland (The Netherlands) to escape religiouspersecution. There, they enjoyed more religious tolerance, but they eventually became disenchanted with the Dutch way of life, thinking it ungodly. Seeking a better life, the Separatists negotiated with aLondon stock company to finance a pilgrimage to America. Most of those making the trip aboard the Mayflower were non-Separatists, but were hired to protect the company's interests. Only aboutone-third of the original colonists were Separatists.
The Pilgrims set ground at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620. Their first winter was devastating. At the beginning of the following fall,they had lost 46 of the original 102 who sailed on the Mayflower. But the harvest of 1621 was a bountiful one. And the remaining colonists decided to celebrate with a feast - including 91 natives who...