The story of the first Thanksgiving Day is one every child in elementary school knows. In the mid-17th century, the Pilgrims, fleeing religious persecution in their native England, first settled in Holland before deciding to continue the journey across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Mayflower. The journey took 65 grueling days before the group landed late in 1620 at Plymouth Rock in what is now Massachusetts.
The Pilgrims endured a horrible first winter in America, with many of their members succumbing to both the cold and a lack of food. The next spring, the Pilgrims were befriended by Samoset, a member of the Abnaki tribe. Later, they were introduced to another member of that tribe, Squanto, who taught the Pilgrims many of the things they needed to do to survive in the new world, including how to plant a staple crop, corn. The harvest during the fall was so bountiful, that Gov. William Bradford of the Pilgrims declared a day of thanksgiving. Squanto and 90 members of his tribe attended the celebration, which turned into a three-day celebration believed to have taken place in mid-October 1621.
It was during the third year, however, when Bradford proclaimed Nov. 29 as a day of Thanksgiving. It is this celebration that is considered the first celebration of Thanksgiving Day.
The custom continued throughout the years as a special day in the late fall to celebrate the harvest in a mostly rural America. In 1817, New York adopted Thanksgiving as an annual holiday. In 1863, amidst the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation designating the fourth Thursday of November as a national holiday, Thanksgiving Day.
We wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving.