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The History of Thanksgiving



turkey pumpkin pie
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thankfulness peace between
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come up with in order to department store
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congress finally finally
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serve vary entertainment
archery display arms
welcome rest spend (2)
loved ones recognition appreciation
blessings thankful



Turkey and Pumpkin Pie

Turkey, pumpkin pie, family, football, and parades. Where did these traditions come from and how did they become a part of a national holiday we call Thanksgiving?

To understand the origins of this holiday, we must take a look back at the origins of our country itself particularly at the Plymouth Colony and it’s crucial first year.


In the fall of 1620, the cargo ship Mayflower transported a group of 102 English men, women and children to the new world.

A portion of this group were separatists, people who had religiously separated themselves from the Church of England, and wanted to come to the new world to find religious freedom.

In time, these people would come to be know as the pilgrims.


The Mayflower arrived in the new world in December 16, 1620, weeks later than they had originally hoped and landing much farther north than they had planned, putting them in present-day Massachusetts

These unfortunate circumstances made for a particularly harsh winter — nearly half the colonist died and those who did not, fell ill.

Spring of 1621

As the spring of 1621 approached, the luck of Plymouth Colony began to change. The colony was visited by several local Indians, or Wampanoan people. One of these visitors was Quantum, otherwise known as Squanto.

Squanto spoke English and showed the pilgrims how to use fish as fertilizer to grow crops on sandy land.

He was their interpreter. He even chose to live among the colonist at Plymouth.

Successful Harvest

By November 1621, things were looking up for the pilgrims. They had survived their first year in the new world, and had a successful enough harvest to continue living there.

The pilgrims collected their harvest which could have included corn, pumpkins, squash, and some grain. They caught fish and gathered together wildfowl and birds, such as ducks, geese, and even wild turkeys to feast on in celebration.

Three Days

The mighty king of the Wampanoan people, Massasoit, joined the pilgrims with 90 of his men. He also donated five deer to this great feast which lasted for three days.

To the pilgrims, this celebration was not the start of a new holiday. It was a common harvest festival much like the ones held in Europe, after every fall after a good harvest.

Revolutionary War

On December 18, 1777, Washington held a national day of Thanksgiving to commemorate the defeat of the British Army in Saratoga. Through the remainder of the Revolutionary War, Washington proclaimed several national days of Thanksgiving to commemorate special days.

By the end of the war, individual states, particularly in the North, had gotten used to having a yearly Thanksgiving Day, though there was no official national holiday and the date of the feast would vary from state to state.

Sarah Josepha Hale

Thanksgiving as we know it today was made possible largely by the efforts of a 19th century writer named Sarah Joshepha Hale. She was America’s first female magazine editor, and author of the famous nursery rhyme “Marry had a little lamb.”

During the Civil War, Hale was convinced that a national Thanksgiving Day would awaken in American hearts the love of home and country of thankfulness to God and peace between brothers.

Abraham Lincoln

She wrote letters to governors and even to President Abraham Lincoln. A few days after receiving her letter, on October 3rd, 1863, President Lincoln, issued a proclamation declaring the last Thursday of November to be Thanksgiving Day.

Year after year, Americans continue to celebrate this day of feasting and thanks even though Congress had not yet ratified it as an official holiday.

Modern Celebrations

Over the years, the date seems to coincide with the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

In 1924, Macy’s Department Store started their Thanksgiving Day Parade which route heads down the streets of New York and ends at the store.

Thanksgiving Football

Also in the 1920s, the Detroit Lions came up with the idea of a Thanksgiving Day football game.

In order to boost dwindling attendance. It was not until 1941 that congress finally made Thanksgiving a legal holiday.

When they did, they moved the holiday up one week so that official day of Thanksgiving would be the fourth Thursday in November. This was done in an attempt to extend the Christmas shopping season.

The Family

Today, more than anything else, Thanksgiving is about family.

Though the way we serve our turkey and our pumpkin may have changed, and our entertainment varied over the years from archery and display of arms to football and parades, Thanksgiving has become a welcome day of rest to spend with loved ones in recognition and appreciation for all the blessings for which we are thankful.

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1. Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the United States. True or false?

2. 102 English people came to America in search of religious freedom. Is this correct or wrong?

3. Were they prepared for their first winter?

4. Who helped the colonists (settlers, pilgrims). How did he help them?

5. Did they have a successful crop and harvest?

6. How did they celebrate? What did they prepare (cook)? Why did they celebrate?

7. Who was Sarah Josepha Hale? What did she do?

8. What are some modern characteristics of the Thanksgiving holiday?

9. What were some things and activities from the video?
A. Is there a Thanksgiving holiday in your country?

B. There is an end of harvest celebration in my country. Yes or no?

C. What are the main holidays, celebrations or festivals in your country?

D. Do you and your friend love holidays, celebrations and festivals? Which is your favorite?

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