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Enjoy this little article about the origin of Thanksgiving.
An Article About Thanksgiving History
Everyone thinks they know the story of Thanksgiving and how it got started. The Pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock. They were starving and the local Native Americans helped them find food and grow crops. After their first harvest they had the first Thanksgiving. All the pictures that people have drawn after the fact show turkeys and cranberries and pumpkin pies, all the trappings that you think of when you think of Thanksgiving history.
While that story is partially true it isn't the whole truth.
The truth of the origin of Thanksgiving is that the first one happened in 1621. The Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians, a local tribe, got together and had a huge harvest festival. Harvest festivals are common in most agricultural societies. There were games and food, so that part is similar to Thanksgiving today, but the food wasn't the same. Venision and fish were more likely to be served that turkey was. In fact, there is nothing that links turkey and Thanksgiving for almost another 200 years.
That first Thanksgiving didn't become a yearly tradition. Part of that is because the next year saw a huge influx of settlers and the harvests were bad. When the harvests are bad there isn't a whole lot to celebrate, and they would have wanted to save as much food as possible to store.
On and off during the years from the first Thanksgiving to the American Revolution people celebrated Thanksgiving. It wasn't necessarily in November. It was a large celebration when it did happen, including sports, games and plenty of food. All of America celebrated Thanksgiving in 1777 because of George Washington and the American Revolution.
Even after Washington declared Thanksgiving in 1777 it didn't fully catch on. It took another famous president to really get the tradition going. In 1863 President Lincoln signed a declaration saying that the last Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving. This is the same time that turkeys really started to be associated with Thanksgiving. Part of what caused this to happen at this time is that a letter than had been written by an early settler was found. The letter talked about how good turkey was. Because of that letter turkeys and Thanksgiving became synonymous.
That established the tradition of Thanksgiving, but there was still one change to come. That change came at the hands of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939. He changed the official Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the 4th Thursday. It may not sounds like a big change, but it can be. Some Novembers have 5 Thursdays. Since the day after Thanksgiving, sometimes called Black Friday, is the start of Christmas shopping having Thanksgiving be the 4th Thursday gives almost an extra week of Christmas shopping. It was the retail industry that urged FDR to change the official date. For a couple of years both days were celebrated in some states, and there was a lot of confusion, so in 1942 the date was finally established at the 4th Thursday in November.
Thanksgiving is a very American holiday. There isn't any one thing that started it, but a whole bunch of things combined. From its humble start it has become one of the most anticipated holidays in the calendar.
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