The real origin of the Thanksgiving Holiday – History

The real origin of the Thanksgiving Holiday – History

Most people were taught that Thanksgiving originated with the pilgrims when they invited local Native Americans to celebrate the first successful Harvest. Here’s what really happened.

There are only two original accounts of the event we think of as the first Thanksgiving, both very brief. In the fall of 1621, the pilgrims, having barely survived their first arduous year, managed to bring in a modest Harvest. They celebrated with a traditional English Harvest Feast, with food, dancing, and games. The local Wampanoag Indians were there, and both groups demonstrated their skill at musketry and archery.

So that was the first Thanksgiving, right? Not exactly. To the pilgrims, a day of thanksgiving was a special religious holiday that consisted of prayer, fasting, and praise. Not at all like the party atmosphere that accompanied a harvest feast.

Our modern Thanksgiving, which combines the concepts of harvest feast and a day of Thanksgiving, is actually a nineteenth-century development. In the decades after the pilgrims, national days of Thanksgiving were decreed on various occasions, and some states celebrated a Thanksgiving holiday annually. But there was no recurring national holiday until 1863, when a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale launched a campaign for an annual celebration that would “greatly aid and strengthen public harmony of feeling.”

Such sentiments were sorely needed in a nation torn apart by the Civil War. So in the aftermath of the bloody Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln decreed a national day of Thanksgiving that would fall on the last Thursday in November, probably to coincide with the anniversary of the pilgrims landing at Plymouth.

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