|SOURCES for "THE FIRST THANKSGIVING"
There are two primary sources for the events of Plymouth in autumn 1621 that relates to the first
thanksgiving. However, research conducted by Center for World Thanksgiving at
Thanks-Giving Square throws a good deal of light on the
subject. Given below are the citations from the two original
writings followed by an analysis of the roots of Thanksgiving.
Enjoy knowing about the history of Thanksgiving and enjoying the ceremony in a differet light.
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Mourt's Relation :
"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on
fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice
together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. They
four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help
beside, served the company almost a week. At which time,
amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the
Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest
king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we
entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five
deer, which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our
governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be
not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by
the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish
you partakers of our plenty."
Of Plymouth Plantation :
"They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to
fit up their house and dwelling against winter, being all well
recovered in health and strength and had all things in good
plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad,
others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other
fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had
their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began
to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this
place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased
by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of
wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc.
Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or
now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made
many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their
friends in England, which were not feigned by true reports."
The story of Thanksgiving is basically
the story of the Pilgrims and their thankful community feast at
The Pilgrims, who set sail from Plymouth, England on a ship called the
Mayflower on September 6, 1620, were fortune hunters, bound for the
resourceful 'New World'. The Mayflower was a not-so-large ship crowded with
men, women and children, besides the sailors on board. Aboard were
passengers comprising the 'separatists', who called themselves the
"Saints", and others, whom the separatists called the "Strangers".
After land was sighted in November following 66 days of a lethal
voyage, a meeting was held and an agreement of truce was worked out. It
was called the Mayflower Compact. The agreement guaranteed equality
among the members of the two groups. They merged together to be
recognized as the "Pilgrims." They elected John Carver as their first
||Although Pilgrims had
first sighted the land off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, they did
not settle until they arrived at a place called Plymouth. It
was Captain John Smith who named the place after the English
port-city in 1614 and had already settled there for over five
years. And it was there that the Pilgrims finally decided to
settle. Plymouth offered an excellent harbor and plenty of
resources. The local Indians were also non-hostile, unlike in other areas.
But their happiness was short-lived.
Ill-equipped to face the winter on this estranged place they were
|Somehow they were
saved by a group of local Native Americans who befriended them
and helped them with food. Soon the natives taught the settlers
the technique to cultivate corns and grow native vegetables,
and store them for hard days. By the next winter they had
raised enough crops to keep them alive. The winter came and
passed by without much harm. The settlers knew they had beaten
the odds and it was time to celebrate.
They celebrated it with a grand community
feast wherein the friendly native Americans were also invited. It was
kind of a harvest feast, the Pilgrims used to have in England. The
recipes entail "corn" (wheat, by the Pilgrims usage of the word),
Indian corn, barley, pumpkins and peas, "fowl" (specially "waterfowl"),
deer, fish. And yes, of course the yummy wild turkey.
However, the third year was real bad when the corns got damaged.
Pilgrim Governor William Bradford ordered a day of fasting and prayer,
and rain happened to follow soon. To celebrate - November 29th of that
year was proclaimed a day of thanksgiving. This date is believed to be
the real beginning of the present Thanksgiving Day.
Though the Thanksgiving Day is presently celebrated on the fourth
Thursday of every November. This date was set by President Franklin
D. Roosevelt in 1939 (approved by Congress in 1941). Earlier it was the
last Thursday in November as was designated by the former President
Abraham Lincoln. But sometimes the last Thursday would turn out to be
the fifth Thursday of the month. This falls too close to the Christmas,
leaving the businesses even less than a month's time to cope up with
the two big festivals. Hence the change.