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The History of the First Thanksgiving

In our video Thanksgiving for kids: The history of the first Thanksgiving you will learn about the history of our very first “Thanksgiving” and how the holiday, as we know it today, became official.

The story of the first Thanksgiving is quite different from the holiday we celebrate today. When you hear the word Thanksgiving the first thing you may think about is turkey, or maybe the Fall or football, or perhaps you look forward to a couple of days off from school. In the 1600s, the first Thanksgiving had nothing to do with turkey, football, or school. It did take place during the Fall, and there was a feast shared by many people.

Thanksgiving is an annual celebration and a national holiday which commemorates a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621. In the United States, it is held on the fourth Thursday in November. It is often remembered by religious observances
and a traditional meal, which today includes turkey. The present Thanksgiving holiday did not become official until 1863.

Before that time, three different presidents beginning with Washington tried to make it a national holiday, but it was limited to state observances and celebrations. However, many people believed that Thanksgiving should become a national holiday. Sarah Josepha Hale, an editor of a popular women’s magazine campaigned to make it a national holiday again. Finally, in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving as a holiday to give thanks for “general blessings”.

Since that time America has celebrated Thanksgiving every year with a traditional meal, often with family and friends, and giving thanks for their blessings.