Thanksgiving in America

In 1621, less than half of the original Pilgrims had survived the first-year difficulties of living in the New World, (including extreme cold, lack of shelter, and lack of nourishment) but they had a bountiful second-year harvest. With aid from Samoset and Squanto and other Native Americans they learned of new foods and methods for food collection. They had corn, fruits, vegetables, syrup, wild game and fowl, and fish. There was even enough to store for the Winter.

Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving to be shared by colonists and their Native neighbors, which became a celebratory feast along with games and merriment that lasted for three days. The following year was less plentiful and the third year after was hot and dry enough to cause much of the crops to die. Bradford ordered a day of fasting and prayer and soon after rain came. To celebrate, November 29th was named a day of Thanksgiving that year.

The custom of holding a day of Thanksgiving after Harvest time continued off and on and in the late 1770's, a National Day of Thanksgiving was suggested by the Continental Congress. In 1819 New York made it an annual celebration and by 1850 around 19 other states had too. President Lincoln declared a national Thanksgiving in 1863 and since then each President has issued the same proclamation, usually on the fourth Thursday of November.

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