Thanksgiving, called American Thanksgiving, in Canada, is celebrated on the 4th Thursday in November, and has been an annual tradition since 1863, but was not a federal holiday until some 80 years later in 1941.
The First Thanksgiving in Plimoth, Massachusetts in 1621 was a Thanks to God for helping the Pilgrims survive the brutal first winter from the previous year aboard the Mayflower ship.
This First Thanksgiving spanned thee days with food aplenty and included 53 pilgrims and some 90 Native American Wampanoag Indians.
Many Pilgrims died aboard the Mayflower the previous winter, including most of the adult women.
The original First Thanksgiving Feast, from information on Wikipedia, included whatever fowl was caught, as well as duck, geese, venison, fish, lobster and clams, swan, pumpkin squash (not pie but boiled), dried fruit and many vegetables. There was only a small supply of flour, so there was no bread to be had during this first feast.
There were of course some Thanksgiving celebrations before the most famous one in Plimoth, such as the one in 1565 when some 600Â Spanish settlers in St. Augustine, Florida held a Thanksgiving Mass thanking God for delivering them safely to the New World.
Jamestown, Virginia, which had beenÂ established in 1607, saw nearly 40 English settlers arrive on a bank of the James River in 1619 to celebrate a Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving to God was to be celebrated yearly, but during the Indian Massacre of 1622, about one-third of the population of the Virginia Colony were killed, and people retreated to Jamestown and other points.
This site became the Berkeley Plantation, and became home to one of the first families of Virginia, the Harrison family, and became part of one of the oldest counties in the US, and is now located along Virginia State Route 5 and not far from the early James River plantations and the colonial Williamsburg.
The Berkeley Plantation still celebrates Thanksgiving yearly.
In Plimoth, (the olde spelling of Plymouth), the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621.
During this First ThanksgivingÂ in Plymouth, a member of the Patuxet Native Americans who lived with the Wampanoag tribe, Squanto, taught the Pilgrims the skills of catching eel and growing corn. He had been a slave in England and had learned English. He also served as an interpreter for the Pilgrims.
During these early years, the festival was a harvest festival, a tradition of both English and Native American life.
The Pilgrims who came here were separatists and wanted to separate from the Church of England, and founded the forerunner of Congregationalism.
In 1623, the Pilgrims celebrated a larger Thanksgiving, when privatized farming yielded a more bountiful harvest. Thanksgiving feasts then continued from time to time. According to the early Pilgrims, Thanksgiving was primarily a religious celebration.
By the mid 1800s, Thanksgiving was celebrated yearly, but not according to any particular set day until the Civil War, when Lincoln proclaimed it would be celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November.
It was Lincoln, who in 1863, decided that Thanksgiving Day would be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.
in 1939, November had 5 Thursdays instead of 4, and FDR decided Thanksgiving would fall on the 4th not the last Thursday in November.Â But then he changed it a little in 1940 and 1941, when November had only 4 Thursdays, and FDR made Thanksgiving be the 3rd Thursdays instead of the 4th Thursday.Â
The reason for this is stated as FDR wanting to give merchants a longer possible selling time during the war time, and virtually still in the grips of the Great Depression. Fred Lazaus, of Federated Dept Stores (Macy's) wanted an earlier Thanksgiving to help retailers.
This was not the final word on the Thanksgiving Date, as states had their own minds whether to make it the last Thursday or the next to the last Thursday, and so it was not until 1941 when a joint Congress passed a resolution to make Thanksgiving fall on the 4th Thursday in November, beginning with November 1942.
There is the matter of the pardoning of the turkey, with anecdotal but not proven evidence that this dates back to Truman or to Lincoln, but most references began with George. H.W. Bush.
For nearly 40 years, protesters that include Native Americans hold a national day of mourning at Plymouth Rock, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, to honor political prisoners, in the name of social equality.
And of course, we all know about Football, Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day Parade (NOT the Macy Day Parade), a tradition going back more than 75 years, and the original and a remake of The Miracle on 34th Street, plus many Christmas specials including Charlie Brown, and new and old movies and shows alike, plus Black Friday sales and the more recent Cyber Monday sales.
Poem by Florence Earle Coates 1909
Public Domain, published in the US before Jan 1. 1923.
Now gracious plenty rules the board,
And in the purse is goldÂ ;
By multitudes in glad accord
Thy giving is extolled.
Ah, suffer me to thank Thee, Lord,
For what thou dost withholdÂ !
I thank Thee that howeâ€™er we climb
There yet is something higherÂ ;
That though through all our reach of time
We to the stars aspire,
Still, still beyond us burns sublime
The pure sidereal fireÂ !
I thank Thee for the unexplained,
The hope that lies before,
The victory that is not gained,â€”
O Father, more and more
I thank Thee for the unattained,
The good we hunger forÂ !
I thank Thee for the voice that sings
To inner depths of beingÂ ;
For all the spread and sweep of wings,
From earthly bondage freeingÂ ;
For mysteryâ€”the dream of things
Beyond our power of seeingÂ !