The History of the First Thanksgiving
In 1621, the Thanksgiving tradition began by the Plymouth colonist and Wampanoag Indians sharing an autumn harvest feast together.
According to History.com, “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.”
In September 1620, 102 passengers aboard the Mayflower left Plymouth, England. Some passengers sought to find a new home were they could practice their faith; others were drawn by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World.
After more than 90 days at sea, “the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.”
To survive the first brutal winter at the New World, many colonists stayed on the ship. Due to close confinement, colonists suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious diseases.
Leading into the spring, only half of the original Mayflower passengers survived. Upon venturing to the shore, out of the Mayflower, the Colonists were greeted by an Abenaki Indian who spoke to them in English, History.com reported.
After several days, the Abenaki Indian returned, but with another Native American, Squanto. “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,” History.com said. “He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.”
Using the lessons taught by Squanto, the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest was successful. In celebration of the harvest, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited Native American allies. This is what is now remembered as the “first Thanksgiving”.