First published Thanksgiving 2008
Most stories of Thanksgiving history start with the harvest celebration of the pilgrims and the indians that took place in the autumn of 1621. Although they did have a three-day feast in celebration of a good harvest, and the local indians did participate, this "first Thanksgiving" was not a holiday, simply a gathering. There is little evidence that this feast of thanks led directly to our modern Thanksgiving Day holiday. Thanksgiving can, however, be traced back to 1863 when Pres. Lincoln became the first president to proclaim Thanksgiving Day. The holiday has been a fixture of late November ever since.
However, since most school children are taught that the first Thanksgiving was held in 1621 with the pilgrims and indians, let us take a closer look at just what took place leading up to that event, and then what happened in the centuries afterward that finally gave us our modern Thanksgiving.
The Pilgrims who sailed to this country aboard the Mayflower were originally members of the English Separatist Church. They were NOT the Puritans that we read so much about. Puritans did not believe in separting themselves from society, as the Pilgrims did. They had earlier fled their home in England and sailed to Holland (The Netherlands) to escape religious persecution. There, they enjoyed more religious tolerance, but they eventually became disenchanted with the Dutch way of life, thinking it ungodly. Seeking a better life, the Separatists negotiated with a London stock company to finance a pilgrimage to America. Most of those making the trip aboard the Mayflower were non-Separatists, but were hired to protect the company's interests. Only about one-third of the original colonists were Separatists.