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History of Thanksgiving

Along with Independence Day, Thanksgiving is considered by many to be one of America's favorite holidays, mostly because it gathers everyone to the dinner table; a tribute in itself to the holiday's origin.

A group of sailors set sail on the 'Mayflower' from Plymouth, England on September 6, 1620, along with two groups of passengers who were considered 'separatists'. 66 days later, land was discovered off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which would also be named Plymouth by Captain John Smith.

The group decided on Plymouth's area because the land was rich in resources and offered an attractive harbor. But their first year was disastrous as they were stripped of many resources, unable to cope with their first winter in the New World. A group of local Native Americans came to the aid of the Pilgrims. They educated the new settlers on how to plant and harvest food and crops. By next winter, the Pilgrims had grown and preserved corn, the most plentiful crop, as well as fruits and vegetables. In addition, they had learned to pack fish in salt and smoke cure meat over a fire.

Knowing they had overcome so much, the Pilgrims found reason to celebrate their survival and the lessons they were taught. In 1621, Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving to be shared between the Pilgrims and the Native American Indians. According to Edward Winslow's 'A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth', the feast comprised mostly of fowl (wild turkey) which was gathered by the settlers, and deer which was brought by the Indians.

President Abraham Lincoln designated the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day. But as commerce and Christmas became more popular combination, President Franklin Roosevelt shifted the holiday to the fourth Thursday of November in 1939, so as to further distance both holidays from one another. It was approved by Congress in 1941.

Mayflower Compact

Thanksgiving Celebrated 4th Thursday of November