Thanksgiving

A holiday steeped in both tradition and folklore, Thanksgiving was first celebrated in 1621. The first American Thanksgiving was held in celebration and thanks of the harvest that the Plymouth Colony was blessed with after having had such a harsh winter. The colonists celebrated the day in the spirit of traditional English harvest festivals, as proclaimed by Governor William Bradford. The local Wampanoag Indians were invited to take part in the celebration, as well. This would be the first official celebration of days of thanksgiving in America. Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national Holiday in 1863. Thanksgiving was initially set for the last Thursday in November. However, Franklin D. Roosevelt switched it to the fourth Thursday in the same month, to allow merchants the opportunity to reap the financial benefits of a long holiday season.

As the honored guests of Captain Miles Standish, the Wampanoag Indians Samoset, Squanto, and Massasoit were asked to bring their immediate families along for the feasting and merriment. Standish underestimated just how many constituted immediate family, however. The three brought nearly a hundred members of their tribe with them. Obviously Standish and the Pilgrims were ill prepared to feed so many people for three days. Gracefully, Massasoit saw this, and sent his men home to bring back more food and supplies. His generosity provided the majority of the foodstuffs that would be feasted upon for that first Thanksgiving feast: turkeys, fish, deer, beans, cornbread and soup, berries and squash. The Wampanoag compromised and ate at the table with the Pilgrims rather than on their customary mats and furs. For once, there was a peaceful accord among them all.

The first Thanksgiving represents a special camaraderie that existed between distinctly different people from equally different backgrounds. During this time, the Wampanoags and Miles Standish were even able to come to an agreement regarding the land necessary to build the town of Plymouth. Unfortunately, this time of peaceful coexistence was not to last. As more English settlers arrived, the differences in beliefs and cultures became more widely apparent, and eventually led to division between the two groups. The Pilgrims soon forgot the goodwill and aid afforded to them by the Wampanoag, and clashes for supremacy soon ensued. Thus, the first Thanksgiving is remembered very differently by these two populations of people.





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