Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November each year. It was first celebrated in 1621 at Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts. The holiday commemorates the first harvest after the settlers survived a harsh winter.
The busiest travel period of the year is unquestionably during the Thanksgiving holiday, a time for travel inspiration. Travelers encounter traffic, infamous transportation delays, and other roadblocks almost everywhere. The days immediately preceding Thanksgiving, as well as the final weekend day to fly before heading back to work, are Wednesday, November 23, and Sunday, November 27. Puerto Vallarta, San Jose Del Cabo, and Cancun are the top three international Thanksgiving destination spots for Americans.
Here are 10 interesting things you need to know about Thanksgiving history.
1. The first Thanksgiving celebration was a grand feast
In 1621, the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Colony and planted crops. They did not have enough food to sustain themselves. Many of the colonists died from disease and malnutrition. The survivors decided to give thanks to God for surviving the harsh winter. After the first harvest, the Pilgrims held a feast. They invited friends and relatives to share in the celebration. The feast lasted three days. On the fourth day, the Pilgrims gave thanks for having a good harvest. They also invited and thanked the Native Americans who had helped them grow crops.
2. Pilgrims were not the only people to celebrate Thanksgiving
The Pilgrims were not the only people who celebrated Thanksgiving. Native Americans had their own version of the holiday. They called it “Pasqua.” There are many different stories about how the Pilgrims came to celebrate Thanksgiving. One story says they were inspired by watching the Mayflower arrive at Cape Cod Harbor. Another story says that the pilgrims were starving and decided to eat what they could find. A third story says that the pilgrims wanted to thank God for saving them from starvation.
3. The friendship between the Pilgrims and Native Americans got strained later
After Plymouth was founded, Massasoit, the Wampanoag supreme chief, sided with the English settlers and fought alongside them against the French and other nearby tribes. But as time went on, the alliance grew tense.
Authorities established authority over most elements of Wampanoag life as hundreds more English colonists arrived in Plymouth and occupied more land. Relations were strained by the time Massasoit’s son Metacomet, whom the English referred to as “King Philip,” took over. King Philip’s War was started by the assassination of John Sassamon, a Punkapoag interpreter and Christian convert, by his troops.
The New England Confederation of Colonies declared war in 1675 in response to Wampanoag incursions. The war was brutal and deadly. This was the Thanksgiving massacre.
4. The foods and drinks commemorate the first feast
How is Thanksgiving Day celebrated? In the US, it is the most popular day of the year for food and drink. People often use the day to celebrate their family members, as well as friends. There are a few traditions that are observed every year and commemorate the first feast. The most traditional way of celebrating this day is to go out to dinner with a large group of people and eat good food, just like the Pilgrims and the Native Americans did.
5. The celebrations are rooted in biblical principles
Unlike Easter and Christmas, which have clear connections to the Christian liturgical calendar, Thanksgiving is a secular celebration. But the foundation of Thanksgiving is found in biblical teachings. The Bible is full of references to the necessity of offering thanks in worship (Psa. 95:2, 100:4, 105:1-2), instructions for believers to give thanks to God (Psa. 106:1), and thoughts on the value of developing a thankful attitude (Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2).
6. Only 5 women attended the first feast
A three-day harvest feast was held in 1621 to commemorate the first Thanksgiving. It lasted three days, and involved 50 Pilgrims, and 90 Wampanoag Indians. Historians estimate that there were only five women in attendance.
7. Turkey was absent in the first celebrations
The first Thanksgiving did not have turkey on the menu. Along with pumpkins and cranberries, it was probably served with venison, duck, goose, oysters, lobster, eel, fish, and other foods (but not pumpkin pie or cranberry sauce!).
8. Thanksgiving football became a tradition in 1876
With a matchup between Yale and Princeton in 1876, Thanksgiving football became a tradition.
9. It has been celebrated for over 300 years
In 1789, President George Washington declared the last Thursday of October to be a national day of thanksgiving.
10. Abraham Lincoln had to be convinced by Sarah Josepha Hale about Thanksgiving
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November to be a national day dedicated to giving thanks for America’s victory over the Confederate States of America. After writing letters to Lincoln for 17 years, “Mary Had a Little Lamb” author Sarah Josepha Hale persuaded him to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday.
Today, many people still celebrate Thanksgiving. They enjoy family gatherings, feasts, parades, and football games. They also watch television shows about Thanksgiving.