thanksgiving4 300U.S. (11/28/13) – The first acknowledgment of Thanksgiving has been dated back to 1621, where the Wampanoag Indians and the Plymouth colonists gathered together for their first fall harvest feast.

In September 1620, a small ship called the “Mayflower” left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faiths and prosper in the “new world.”

After 66 days of a treacherous crossing over the Atlantic Ocean, the Mayflower finally landed on what is now called Cape Cod, which was further north than what was originally planned. A month later, the passengers crossed over into the Massachusetts Bay, where the “pilgrims,” as they are known now, began to work on establishing a village at Plymouth.

Throughout the brutal winter, most colonists stayed on board of the Mayflower, where they suffered from scurvy and other contagious outbreak of diseases. Only half of the colonists were fortunate enough to survive the winter and saw their first New England spring.

After the remaining colonists made their way to shore, they were greeted by an Abenaki Indian who spoke to them in English. Several days later, they met another Native American named Squanto, who was a member of the Pawtuxet tribe. Squanto taught the malnourished and ill pilgrims to cultivate the land, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish and avoid poisonous plants.

In Nov. 1621, after the first harvest proved to be a success, Gov. William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited all the colonists and local allied tribes to join together. The festival lasted for three days.

It wasn’t until 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, did President Abraham Lincoln proclaim that a national Thanksgiving Day be held in November.

According to the National Turkey Federation, today, nearly 90 percent of Americans eat turkey and other traditional foods such as dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.
Over the years, for many American households, the Thanksgiving celebration has lost much of its original religious significance and is now centered on cooking and sharing a generous meal with family and friends.

Amber Averitt
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