The Story of the Original Thanksgiving

Many cultures all over the world hold festivals or ceremonies to celebrate the fall harvest. But did you know that Thanksgiving was an actual event in America in 1621? That's almost 400 years ago!

The Pilgrims first came to North America on the ship The Mayflower in 1620, landing in what is now Massachusetts. Taking such a long journey to such a cold climate was hard on their health, and almost half of those first Pilgrims died of scurvy and pneumonia.

Times were very tough. The Pilgrims might not have survived if they had not met one person who changed American history. He was a Native American from the Patuxet tribe named Tisquantum, known to us as Squanto.

Squanto had a lot happen to him in life. As a young man, Squanto was kidnapped and enslaved by English merchants who were exploring the New World. They took him to England, taught him English, and used him as a guide. He sailed back to America and lived in another Wampanoag village until he heard the Pilgrims had landed.

The Pilgrims were in danger of starving. Squanto taught them how to fertilize and grow corn and barley, and where to fish.

In the fall, the harvest was plentiful. The Pilgrims elected a governor named William Bradford who proclaimed a day of thanksgiving for the bounty.

Hunters from the colony brought geese and ducks. Fish, lobster, clams, dried fruit and corn were also on the menu. The Pilgrims invited the Wampanoag chief Massasoit and ninety people from his tribe, who brought five deer to the feast.

Can you believe that only four Pilgrim women and two girls made Thanksgiving dinner for fifty-six Pilgrims and ninety Native Americans? That's a lot of work!

Although the feast was a huge success, hard times, difficult harvests, and many new colonist mouths to feed meant that there was no thanksgiving feast the next year or in many years to come.

But after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation that the last Thursday in November was to be a national day of Thanksgiving for all of America.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!