Many stories surround the first Thanksgiving held in the Plymouth Colony. Such stories include, the clothes that they wore, the day the event began, why it took place, what had occurred during the event, and even what they ate. There were only two written accounts of this event, each written by a European settler. The writings did not contain details of the event itself. Therefore, as time passed the stories became more and more fabricated from what had actually taken place. Without the European’s written record, would Thanksgiving even exist today?
It became a tradition for Europeans to take part in a Harvest Celebration each fall after, (yes, you guessed it), the harvesting of the land. The Native Americans and European Settlers had learned to coexist in the New World. It is unknown if the peace among them was due to a formal agreement, an understanding between them, or if it was an ultimatum. When it came time for the fall harvest, the settlers had enough food to last through the winter. They had much to celebrate. It is unknown how the natives came to attend the settlers celebration of a successful harvest. But, what is known, is that for three days, the two groups feasted in harmony, and participated in recreational activities. It is also unknown if the joined Harvest Celebration had continued, or if this was a one time event.
Thanksgiving was Born
A few years later, the settlers held a day of “Thanksgiving”. It was a religious day of prayer and fasting completely separate from the Harvest Celebration. Towards the end of the 1600’s, the two events became intertwined. Many colonies held “Thanksgiving Feasts” during the fall season. (Thanksgiving could have been a day of fasting, instead a day of feasting — hum.)
History of Thanksgiving
Peace between the European Settlers and the Native Americans did not last. More and more Europeans declared the New World as their own. Thanksgiving became a day of mourning for the Native Americans. This day reminds them of the deliberate bloodshed, and the betrayal from the “white man”. Because of this, the Native Americans did not adopt the Thanksgiving holiday.
After more than three decades of petitioning the leaders of America, Sarah Josepha Hale, finally was able to convince the President of the United States to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday. Because America was in the middle of a Civil War, Abraham Lincoln felt that making Thanksgiving a national holiday would unify the country once more. The Harvest Celebration had unified two completely different communities for a time. A national day of thanks surely should help heal a broken nation. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln officially declared Thanksgiving a national holiday.
Read a mini-story: Turkey Trot