I am going to dispense with the politically correct version of the first celebrated Thanksgiving Feast, and tell it how I believe it happened based on my own studies on the matter.
A band of Pilgrims, seeking freedom from religious persecution, fled from the British Empire and set sail on the Mayflower. They endured harsh storms and disease to land on a shore of unfamiliar ground where they founded the township of Plymouth. To maintain order, the Pilgrims signed The Mayflower Compact, a government creed which far predated the United States Constitution. They elected a man named Carver to be the first governor.
They went through a winter that was even harsher than the storms at sea that caused many of their own to die. After the winter, the colonists elected William Bradford to be the governor after Governor Carver had passed away.
They soon faced starvation; fortunately, they made contact with a band of Native Americans called the Wampanoag that heroically stepped up to help the strangers. The Pilgrims made peace with their new Native American friends through negotiations mediated by a warrior named Squanto, who had been captured years before and learned to speak English before he escaped. The Wampanoag helped the settlers and taught them how to farm the land corn and catch eel.
In 1621, they had a small harvest, their first successful one, so Governor Bradford declared that they would celebrate this success with a feast of Thanksgiving, thanksgiving to God for helping them through it! They celebrated with their new Native American friends and through this, they began to trade.
William Bradford, in his memoirs Of Plymouth Plantation:
They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings 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 a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to the proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.
It has officially been an annual tradition since 1863, when, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, to be celebrated on in November. Since then it has been the fourth Thursday of November.
Let us take this holiday to thankful for what we have!
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*This is a repost.