History of Thanksgiving
This holiday had humble beginnings in America. It wasn't officially recognized for several centuries.
Wed, Nov 03, 2010 at 11:57 AM
Although Thanksgiving is celebrated widely, not many people are familiar with the history of Thanksgiving.
Legend has it that the initial settlers arrived in the United States on Dec. 4, 1619.
They landed in Berkeley Plantation, Va., and decided to observe the day as one of thankfulness and gratitude to God.
In 1620, new settlers arrived in Massachusetts Bay aboard a small ship called the Mayflower.
The following year was a challenging one for the pilgrims, as the settlers are now called.
There were many cases of disease outbreak, malnutrition, illness and death.
Finally, with the help of Native American residents, the pilgrims learned to cultivate crops, catch fish, extract sap from maple trees and avoid poisonous plants.
In 1621, a huge feast was conducted to celebrate the first successful corn harvest season.
This was the beginning of the Thanksgiving holiday tradition.
The celebratory festivities ran for three days.
Since wild turkey was available in abundance, it was featured in many of the dishes that graced the dinner table.
Fowl, shellfish, root vegetables, stews and beer were said to be the other food items served as part of the first Thanksgiving feast.
Thanksgiving Day did not become a national holiday until several centuries later.
Magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale (also the author of popular nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) launched a campaign to establish the day as a national holiday.
Her continuous efforts eventually garnered the support of President Abraham Lincoln.
On Oct. 3, 1863, Lincoln declared Thursday, Nov. 26 to be celebrated as a national day for thanksgiving.
Every year thereafter, the holiday was announced and the date was selected by the president. It almost always has been celebrated on the last Thursday of November.
In 1942, however, after a joint resolution from Congress, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued a proclamation designating the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.