The history of Thanksgiving
Growing up, many of us learned that the early settlers in Plymouth, Massachusetts held a feast with the local Indians to celebrate their harvest. In kindergarten we might have traced our hand on construction paper. Our thumb became the turkey’s head, and our remaining fingers were Tom’s feathers. We might have made a headdress out of additional construction paper, stapling on colored feathers. Interested in learning more, I visited www.history.com to find out what happened at, and after, that first shared harvest meal. Here are excerpts from the website.
“In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers — an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the pilgrims began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.
“Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years.
“In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Gov. William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as America’s “first Thanksgiving” — the festival lasted for three days.
“For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.”
To read more about Thanksgiving, the pilgrims, and the Native Americans, visit the history.com website and the library to check out our many books for children and adults about these topics. Pleasanton Lincoln Library staff and board members wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving.
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