The harvest in October was very successful and the Pilgrims found themselves with enough food to put away for the winter. There was corn, fruits and vegetables, fish to be packed in salt, and meat to be cured over smoky fires.
The Pilgrims had much to celebrate, they had built homes in the wilderness, they had raised enough crops to keep them alive during the long coming winter, and they were at peace with their Indian neighbours. They had beaten the odds and it was time to celebrate.
The Pilgrim Governor WilliamBradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving to be shared by all the colonists and the neighbouring Native Americans. They invited Squanto and the other Indians to join them in their celebration. Their chief, Massasoit, and 90 braves came to the celebration which lasted for 3 days. They played games, ran races, marched and played drums. The Indians demonstrated their skills with the bow and arrow and the Pilgrims demonstrated their musket skills. Exactly when the festival took place is uncertain, but it is believed the celebration took place in mid-October.
The Algonkian tribes held six thanksgiving festivals during the year. The beginning of the Algonkian year was marked by the Maple Dance which gave thanks to the Creator for the maple tree and its syrup. This ceremony occurred when the weather was warm enough for the sap to run in the maple trees, sometimes as early as February. Second was the planting feast, where the seeds were blessed. The strawberry festival was next, celebrating the first fruits of the season. Summer brought the green corn festival to give thanks for the ripening corn. In late fall, the harvest festival gave thanks for the food they had grown. Mid-winter was the last ceremony of the old year. When the Indians sat down to the "first Thanksgiving" with the Pilgrims, it was really the fifth thanksgiving of the year for them!
The following year the Pilgrims harvest was not as bountiful, as they were still unused to growing the corn. During the year they had also shared their stored food with newcomers and the Pilgrims ran short of food.
The 3rd year brought a spring and summer that was hot and dry with the crops dying in the fields. Governor Bradford ordered a day of fasting and prayer, and it was soon thereafter that the rain came. To celebrate - November 29th of that year was proclaimed a day of thanksgiving. This date is believed to be the real true beginning of the present day Thanksgiving Day.
It would be very good to say that this friendship lasted a long time; but, unfortunately, that was not to be. More English people came to America, and they were not in need of help from the Indians as were the original Pilgrims. Many of the newcomers forgot the help the Indians had given them. Mistrust started to grow and the friendship weakened. The Pilgrims started telling their Indian neighbours that their Indian religion and Indian customs were wrong. The Pilgrims displayed intolerance toward the Indian religion similar to the intolerance displayed toward the less popular religions in Europe. The relationship deteriorated and within a few years the children of the people who ate together at the first Thanksgiving were killing one another in what came to be called King Phillip's War.
It is sad to think that this happened, but it is important to understand all of the story and not just the happy part. Today the town of Plymouth Rock has a Thanksgiving ceremony each year in remembrance of the first Thanksgiving
The custom of an annually celebrated thanksgiving, held after the harvest, continued through the years. During the American Revolution (late 1770's) a day of national thanksgiving was suggested by the Continental Congress.
In 1817 New York State had adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom. By the middle of the 19th century many other states also celebrated a Thanksgiving Day. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln appointed a national day of thanksgiving. Since then each president has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation, usually designating the fourth Thursday of each November as the holiday.
Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national day of observance by Congress in 1941. Nowadays it is a family holiday. The traditional feast consists of turkey with a stuffing. It is served by sweet potatoes, squash and pumpkin pie. Apple cider is a drink of the day. Football is the most popular game on this day. Macy's department store holds a parade in New York city. At the end Santa Claus comes and it symbolizes the coming of Christmas.
T for time to be together, turkey, talk, and tangy weather.
H for harvest stored away, home, and hearth, and holiday.
A for autumn's frosty art, and abundance in the heart.
N for neighbours and October, nice things, new things to remember.
K for kitchen, kettles' croon, and kith and kin expected soon.
S for sizzles, sights, and sounds, and something special that abounds.
Americans did not invent Thanksgiving. It began in Canada. Frobisher's celebration in 1578 was 43 years before the pilgrims gave thanks in 1621 for the bounty that ended a year of hardships and death. Abraham Lincoln established the date for the US as the last Thursday in November. In 1941, US Congress set the National Holiday as the fourth Thursday in November.
Frobisher and early colonists, giving thanks for safe passage, as well as pilgrim celebrations in the US that began the traditions of turkeys, pumpkin pies, and the gathering of family and friends.
There are three traditions behind Canadian Thanksgiving Day.
Long ago, before the first Europeans arrived in North America, the farmers in Europe held celebrations at harvest time. To give thanks for their good fortune and the abundance of food, the farm workers filled a curved goat's horn with fruit and grain. This symbol was called a cornucopia or horn of plenty. When they came to Canada they brought this tradition with them.
In the year 1578, the English navigator Martin Frobisher held a formal ceremony, in what is now called Newfoundland, to give thanks for surviving the long journey. He was later knighted and had an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean in northern Canada named after him - Frobisher Bay. Other settlers arrived and continued these ceremonies.
The third came in the year 1621, in what is now the United States, when the Pilgrims celebrated their harvest in the New World. The Pilgrims were English colonists who had founded a permanent European settlement at Plymouth Massachusetts. By the 1750's, this joyous celebration was brought to Nova Scotia by American settlers from the south.
At the same time, French settlers, having crossed the ocean and arrived in