“The Pilgrims” were a group of people from England who hoped to escape persecution for their religious practices. Seeking a godly way of life, they made a pilgrimage to America aboard the small sailing ship, the Mayflower. The length of the deck from stem to stern was about 80 feet, of which about 12 feet at the back belonged to the gun room and was probably off-limits to the passengers. The width at the widest part was about 24 feet. The voyage to America took two months, arriving 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. The harvest of 1621 was a bountiful one with corn, fruits, vegetables, along with fish which was packed in salt, and meat that was smoke cured over fires. They found they had enough food to put away for the winter.
The remaining colonists had beaten the odds decided to celebrate with a feast -- including 91 native Wampanoag People who had helped the Pilgrims survive their first year. They built homes in the wilderness, they raised enough crops to keep them alive during the long coming winter, and they were at peace with their Indian neighbors. It is believed that the Pilgrims would not have made it through the year without the help of the natives. The three-day feast was more of a traditional English harvest festival than a true "thanksgiving" observance. From the one short paragraph that was written about the celebration at the time, we know that they ate, drank, and played games.
The English did not call the 1621 event a “thanksgiving.” A day of “thanksgiving” was very different to the colonists ~ a day of prayer to thank God when something really good happened. The English colonists actually observed their first thanksgiving in the summer of 1623 when they gave thanks for the rain that ended a long drought.
For that first autumn feast with their native American friends, Governor William Bradford sent "four men fowling" after wild ducks and geese. The term "turkey" was used by the Pilgrims to mean any sort of wild fowl, and it is not certain that wild turkey was part of their feast.
It is unlikely that the first feast included pumpkin pie. The supply of flour had been long diminished, so there was no typical bread or a way to make flour pastry, however, they did eat boiled pumpkin, and produced a type of fried bread from their corn crop.
There were no domestic cattle for dairy products, and the newly-discovered potato was still considered by many Europeans to be poisonous. The feast did include fish, berries, watercress, lobster, dried fruit, clams, venison, and plums.
Many years passed before the event was repeated. In June of 1676 another Day of thanksgiving was proclaimed. On June 20 of that year the governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts, held a meeting to determine how best to express thanks for the good fortune that had seen their community securely established. By unanimous vote they instructed Edward Rawson, the clerk, to proclaim June 29 as a day of thanksgiving.
George Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789, although some were opposed to it. There was discord among the colonies, many feeling the hardships of a few pilgrims did not warrant a national holiday. And later, President Thomas Jefferson opposed the idea of having a day of thanksgiving.
It was Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor, whose efforts eventually led to what we recognize as Thanksgiving. Hale wrote many editorials championing her cause in her Boston Ladies' Magazine, and later, in Godey's Lady's Book. Finally, in 1817,after a 40-year campaign of writing editorials and letters to governors and presidents, Hale's obsession became a reality when, in 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving was proclaimed by every president after Lincoln. The date was changed a couple of times, most recently by Franklin Roosevelt, who set it up one week to the next-to-last Thursday in order to create a longer Christmas shopping season. Public uproar against this decision caused the president to move Thanksgiving back to its original date two years later. And in 1941, Thanksgiving was finally sanctioned by Congress as a legal holiday, as the fourth Thursday in November.
Today, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day with our family and friends. Many businesses are closed for the day, and the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” followed by American Football games are watched on television. 2013 marks the 87th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, and it is seen by over 3.5 million people who line the streets in New York, with another 50 million tuned in to watch via television.
Dinner is served in most homes beginning anywhere from 11 AM to evening meals. Games are played indoors where the weather prohibits outdoor activity. The first flurries of winter often precipitate the week of Thanksgiving, and the anticipation of winter and Christmas emerges. Thanksgiving is one of the most heavily-traveled holidays of the year in the United States, as family and friends make efforts to gather together. God has poured His bounties upon us, and He promises an eternity to us full of the riches of His eternal kingdom. Thank You.