Tag Archives: Pilgrims

Celebrating Thanksgiving

PilgrimsThanksgiving can be traced back to 1863 when Lincoln became the first president to proclaim Thanksgiving Day. The holiday has been a fixture of late November ever since. The Pilgrims who sailed to this country aboard the Mayflower were originally members of the English Separatist Church. They had earlier fled their home in England and sailed to Holland (The Netherlands) to escape religious persecution. Seeking a better life, the Separatists negotiated with a London stock company to finance a pilgrimage to America.

The Pilgrims set ground at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620. Their first winter was devastating. They 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 native Americans who had helped the Pilgrims survive their first year. It is believed that the Pilgrims would not have made it through the year without the help of the native Americans. The feast was more of a traditional English harvest festival and lasted three days.

It was Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor, whose efforts eventually led to what we recognize as Thanksgiving today. Hale wrote many editorials championing her cause in her Boston Ladies’ Magazine, and later, in Godey’s Lady’s Book. Finally, 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.

LIncolnIn 1941, Thanksgiving was finally sanctioned by Congress as a legal holiday, as the fourth Thursday in November.

To Learn more about the history and traditions of this holiday go to:
http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/videos#history-of-the-thanksgiving-holiday.  Find fun activities to do with the children here:

International Celebrations of Giving Thanks!

Thanksgiving in the United States is celebrated on the 4th Thursday in November.  It is often thought of as a particularly American holiday because of the story of the Pilgrims and the Indians.  You will find, however, that most cultures, religions, and/or countries have some kind of a holiday that involves giving thanks.  Many of them are associated with harvest time.  Some of them are still celebrated as separate holidays. 

In ancient times the Hebrews had a feast at which they gave thanks to God for their harvest.  It was called Sukkot and Jews still celebrate it today.  The ancient Greeks had a harvest festival in honor of Demeter, the goddess of the harvest.  They brought gifts of honey, fruit and grain to her shrines.  The Romans honored Ceres, the goddess who protected their crops.  They called it the festival of Cerelia, and that is where the word “cereal” is derived.  For hundreds of years the Chinese have celebrated a festival of the harvest moon.  This brightest moon of the year shines on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar.  The festival is called the Mid-Autumn Festival.  The Vietnamese call this festival Tet Trung Thu.  Koreans celebrate it as Chu-Sok.  People in Southern India celebrate at least 2 harvest festivals, Onam in the fall and Pongal in the midwinter.  Onam is a harvest festival associated with the legendary King Mahabalia.  Pongol is the celebration of the rice harvest, the biggest festival of the year.  In England, the thanksgiving celebration was called Harvest Home.  It took place when the last field was harvested and the crops were brought safely to the barns.  Thanksgiving has also been celebrated in Canada for a long time.  It probably began many years before the Pilgrims landed in America. 

So when the Pilgrims did land in their new home on December 21, 1620, they already knew about the ceremonies of thanksgiving.  They had, of course, come from England and were familiar with the custom of giving thanks after the harvest.  So, one year later, after a year of terrible hardship and frighteningly little success, Governor William Bradford proclaimed the first day of Thanksgiving in the Plymouth Colony.  This was the feast day that many think of when we hear “the first Thanksgiving.”  It was the one shared with the Indians, who had helped the Pilgrims and introduced them to the native foods and strange farming practices of the New World.