When people think of Thanksgiving, most remember the story of the Pilgrims and the Indians at Plymouth Rock.
The Pilgrims first arrived in America on December 11, 1620, not prepared for the winter they were to face. Out of the 102 who arrived on the Mayflower, forty-six of the people died during the first few months. Despite the devastation, they had a good harvest, partly in thanks to the Indians who lived nearby.
They had a traditional British Harvest Feast in thanks to God for surviving and the blessings of provisions that would see them through the winter. In contrast to our modern Thanksgiving menu, they actually had more meat than vegetables, including venison, fish and wild foul, which may or may not have actually been turkey. They probably didn't have much in the way of desserts, as they didn't have a lot of flour or sugar on hand. They probably had some fruits and corn. Instead of pumpkin pie, they probably had boiled pumpkin. The first Thanksgiving feast lasted for three days.
Thanksgiving was not an annual event in the U.S. for many years. In 1623, there was a drought and instead of having a celebration, the Pilgrims held a prayer service. When their prayers were answered the next day, they invited their Indian friends to join them in another Thanksgiving observance.
June 20, 1676 was celebrated as a day of Thanksgiving in Charlestown, Massachusetts. However this was very different than the first Thanksgiving. This was to celebrate a victory over the Indians. Another victory, this time over the British, was celebrated in October of 1677 by all of the thirteen colonies. George Washington established the first national Thanksgiving day in 1789, however not everyone thought it was a good idea, including Thomas Jefferson.
It wasn't until 1863 that what we know as our modern Thanksgiving came into being. Sarah Josepha Hale decided to promote Thanksgiving in her magazine, Boston Ladies' Magazine and in Godey's Lady's Book. She also wrote letters to different governors and presidents. Abraham Lincoln finally established Thanksgiving as the last Thursday in November. The date was changed a few times to the third Thursday, but in 1941 was finally established on its current date, the fourth Thursday in November.
Over the years, it has drifted away from its original focus on being thankful. It has become a day to eat and watch football. While those aren't bad things, it is good for people to take the time to actually be thankful for their blessings.