The Story of Thanksgiving

The Story of Thanksgiving: Tradition, Meaning, and Facts

A Day of Gratitude and Community

While turkey, pie and family time are staples of our Thanksgiving celebrations, the history and meaning behind this holiday run far deeper. Let’s explore the origins of Thanksgiving – from the Pilgrims’ journey to our modern traditions of gratitude.

The First Thanksgiving

At its core, Thanksgiving represents coming together to express appreciation for our many blessings. But how did this tradition first begin?

The Brave Beginning

In 1620, a group called the Pilgrims sought refuge and freedom across the ocean aboard the Mayflower. After a treacherous voyage, they established a small settlement in what we now know as Plymouth, Massachusetts. However, life in the new land presented immense hardships.

A Helping Hand in Hard Times

Through the brutal winter, many Pilgrims perished with scarce resources and little knowledge of survival in America. But kindness from Native Americans like Squanto taught them farming, fishing and opened diplomatic relations.

Causes for Celebration

By the following autumn of 1621, the Pilgrims’ crops had flourished. Squanto and 90 Wampanoag tribesmen joined the Pilgrims for a 3-day harvest feast – today considered our first Thanksgiving. It was a moment to rejoice in friendship, full bellies and their survival in this new home.

The Meaning behind the Meal

While the Pilgrims’ story lives on as a folkloric origin, Thanksgiving evolved into so much more. At its heart, it’s a time for counting blessings through sharing and gratitude – values that have transcended generations.

Traditions Old and New

From parades to football, many modern traditions blossomed in the early 20th century. But the Thanksgiving spirit has endured for centuries as a moment to appreciate loved ones, health, and life’s simple gifts through nourishment of community.

Fun Facts about the First
Digging deeper reveals lesser known nuances to that historic 1621 Thanksgiving:

Unconventional Turkey

Contrary to iconic traditions, wild turkey wasn’t necessarily on the menu. More likely were foods native to the land like venison, fish and pumpkin served alongside new crops like corn.

A Three-Day Feast

Rather than a single large meal, the celebration spanned multiple days with eating, competitive games and enjoyable activities between European settlers and Native tribes.

An Unofficial Holiday

Thanksgiving wasn’t immediately established as an annual tradition. It took years of sporadic, small celebrations before President Lincoln made it a national holiday in 1863.

Carrying On the Legacy

As we gather with loved ones this year, let’s honor the resilience of the Pilgrims and Wampanoag, as well as the continuing gift of unity, appreciation and sharing that defines our Thanksgiving holiday.

For more in-depth information about Thanksgiving, you can visit Britannica’s page on Thanksgiving.