|The story of Thanksgiving is basically the story of the
Pilgrims and their thankful community feast at Plymouth, Massachusetts.
The Pilgrims, who set sail from Plymouth, England on a ship called the
Mayflower on September 6, 1620, were fortune hunters, bound for the
resourceful 'New World'. The Mayflower was a small ship crowded with
men, women and children, besides the sailors on board. Aboard were
passengers comprising the 'separatists', who called themselves the
"Saints", and others, whom the separatists called the "Strangers".
After land was sighted in November following 66 days of a lethal voyage,
a meeting was held and an agreement of truce was worked out. It was
called the Mayflower Compact. The agreement guaranteed equality among
the members of the two groups. They merged together to be recognized as
the "Pilgrims." They elected John Carver as their first governor.
||Although Pilgrims had first sighted the land off
Cape Cod, Massachusetts, they did not settle until they arrived
at a place called Plymouth. It was Captain John Smith who named
the place after the English port-city in 1614 and had already
settled there for over five years. And it was there that the
Pilgrims finally decided to settle. Plymouth offered an
excellent harbor and plenty of resources. The local Indians were
But their happiness was short-lived. Ill-equipped to face the winter
on this estranged place they were ravaged thoroughly.
|Somehow they were saved by a group of local
Native Americans who befriended them and helped them with food.
Soon the natives taught the settlers the technique to cultivate
corns and grow native vegetables, and store them for hard days.
By the next winter they had raised enough crops to keep them
alive. The winter came and passed by without much harm. The
settlers knew they had beaten the odds and it was time to
They celebrated it with a grand community feast wherein the friendly
native Americans were also invited. It was kind of a harvest feast, the
Pilgrims used to have in England. The recipes entail "corn" (wheat, by
the Pilgrims usage of the word), Indian corn, barley, pumpkins and peas,
"fowl" (specially "waterfowl"), deer, fish. And yes, of course the yummy
However, the third year was real bad when the corns got damaged. Pilgrim
Governor William Bradford ordered a day of fasting and prayer, and rain
happened to follow soon. To celebrate - November 29th of that year was
proclaimed a day of thanksgiving. This date is believed to be the real
beginning of the present Thanksgiving Day.
Though the Thanksgiving Day is presently celebrated on the fourth
Thursday of every November. This date was set by President Franklin D.
Roosevelt in 1939 (approved by Congress in 1941). Earlier it was the
last Thursday in November as was designated by the former President
Abraham Lincoln. But sometimes the last Thursday would turn out to be
the fifth Thursday of the month. This falls too close to the Christmas,
leaving the businesses even less than a month's time to cope up with the
two big festivals. Hence the change.