(WHTM) – Thanksgiving is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday of November but why do we celebrate Thanksgiving?
Separatists left Plymouth to pursue a new home practice religion freely and were called pilgrims. Upon the arrival of the new world, many stayed on the ship due to the harsh winter and only half of the passengers would live to see spring.
The belief is that once the pilgrims got to land and had a successful harvest they invited a group of Indians called the Wampanoag to a fest that featured turkey, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, etc., but this is far from the truth.
The first Thanksgiving did take place in November 1621 but not for the reason we all thought.
So what really happened to cause the first Thanksgiving?
When the pilgrims made it to the shore the Abenaki tribe would greet them and would bring a Native American named Squanto to help with translation.
Squanto learned English when he was kidnapped and was sold as a slave by an English sea captain, but eventually escaped and made it back to his homeland.
The pilgrims were taught how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish, and avoid poisonous plants by Squanto.
Squanto helped the pilgrims form an alliance with the Wampanoag Indians although this was tested due to expansion, disease, and exploitation the Wampanoag of resources.
A war would later break out between the New England Confederation and the Wampanoag, Nipmuck, Pocumtuck, and Narragansett Indians from 1675 to 1676 and it was called the King Phillip’s War (AKA the First Indian War, the Great Narragansett War or Metacom’s Rebellion).
This war would be won by the New England Confederation and would break the alliance the Indians and pilgrims made.
The first Thanksgiving would occur due to the pilgrim’s first corn harvest being a success and was organized by Governor William Bradford.
Bradford would invite a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies which included Wampanoag chief Massasoit.
The menu was never recorded but the dishes most likely used Native American spices and cooking methods, the Wampanoag also contributed venison, fowl, fish, and vegetables, and beer would also be present.
The event would last multiple days and included the men firing guns, running races, and speaking broken English to each other.
Thanksgiving wouldn’t be celebrated every year as it would occur again in 1623 and would be celebrated by different colonies on their own days.
Sarah Josepha Hale would lobby Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday and in 1863, Lincoln would officially make Thanksgiving a national holiday on the fourth Thursday of November.
In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up a week in an attempt to spur sales. This would now make Thanksgiving occur on the third Thursday of November.
But in 1941 Roosevelt signed a bill to revert Thanksgiving back to the fourth Thursday in November.
Today, most Thanksgivings could include a turkey with gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie.
Although Thanksgiving may be a day that many share a feast with relatives, many Native Americans dislike how the story is told in schools as it falsely portrays that the pilgrims and Native Americans were always peaceful and leaves out the war that occurred decades after the original feast.