Published on Thursday 12th of November 2009
For those who are not acquainted with the 'Thanksgiving' holiday in the United States, here is a short explanation. Most stories of this historic holiday begin with the harvest celebration that took place in the autumn of 1621 when the pilgrims and the Indians shared a bountiful harvest for three days after a severe winter.
The Pilgrims were English people who were being persecuted by the King of England because of their religion (English Separatist Church). They had earlier fled their homes and sailed to Holland but became disillusioned with the Dutch way of life and decided to seek a better life in the New World.
The Pilgrims convinced a London stock company to finance a pilgrimage to the United States and were soon sailing aboard the ‘Mayflower’. The Separatists were joined by a few hundred colonists also seeking a better life in the New World. The Separatists formed roughly one-third of the colonists.
The ‘Mayflower’ set aground at Plymouth Rock (which is now the state of Massachusetts) on December 11, 1620. Their first winter was ghastly and the harvest feeble; they had arrived too late to grow crops, and without fresh food nearly half of the original Separatists perished from disease.
However the following winter (1621) harvest was plentiful and the remaining pilgrims’ decided to celebrate with a feast of gratitude. The pilgrims were joined by 91 Indians who had helped them survive their first year. This festival lasted three days.
It was many years after that first celebration that George Washington suggested that November 26 should become Thanksgiving Day. Then in 1863, more than two hundred years later, at the end of the long and bloody civil war, Abraham Lincoln changed the date to the last Thursday in November.
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