Although it’s commemorated throughout the country, not everyone is familiar with the history of Thanksgiving. Uncovering the facts will help remove the various myths that have grown around it through the years.
Illness and Food Shortage
During the early 1600s, several Pilgrims chose to reside in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Initially the area looked ideal. In the years 1619 to 1620, severe winters came. Their lack of knowledge about farming made things worse.
As food became scare, various ailments began appearing. Almost half the population died during this period. Although some American Indians taught the Pilgrims how to plant, it wasn’t enough to overcome the problem.
The Redistribution of Land
A student of the history of Thanksgiving will also realize that the famine took place because of incorrect policies. The food supply was centralized. They were handed out according to requirements. In 1820, the Governor revised it. Families were given lands based on their size. This allowed everyone to become more productive.
In time the famine became a thing of the past. In 1621, the Pilgrims held celebrations to thank those who helped them. Among those invited were the Indians. Some the foods they brought with them were turkey and beef. The celebrations lasted three days. It was marked by singing and merrymaking.
The event wasn’t just meant to honor the Indians who helped them, or the change in government policies. The history of Thanksgiving will show that it was also meant to honor God.
An Annual Tradition
There were no indications that it was supposed to be celebrated every year. But the practice caught on. In due time, the event became a time for Americans to give thanks for all the blessings they got, not just the harvest.
During the American Revolution, the Patriots would celebrate this day usually after big victories. It was also held during times of difficulty to remind people that there was still hope and plenty to be thankful for. After beating the British, President Washington made the day official.
Choosing the Date
The history of Thanksgiving will show that in the first few years, there was no specific date. States could select any day they like. By the 1830s, most had chosen the autumn period as it coincided with the harvest. By the time of the Civil War the observation had become nationwide. In 1863, President Lincoln decreed that the final Thursday of November be the official day.
This was accepted by all the states. It continued to be the day until President Roosevelt altered it and it became a week early. The justification was to have longer holidays. The people objected and Congress returned the old date. It has remained so to this time. While it may have been commercialized, its meaning is still held by most people.
The history of Thanksgiving isn’t just about a group of people or one faith. It may have started out that way. In the end though, it has become a time for every American to pause and be thankful for the blessings of life.