At Thanksgiving, people all across the United States sit down and share a meal to remember the very first Thanksgiving dinner. This special meal is different from among others, normally containing traditional Thanksgiving foods such as turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, yams, and stuffing. However, it’s more than the company with family and delicious foods that make this holiday important, but the ideas that are behind it.
You see, in the early 1600s the English Separatists were being forced to worship God however the king saw fit. They met in secret, and yet the King sent spies to find out who the key leaders were. Many people were thrown into prison for not heeding to the king’s religion. The separatists, or ‘pilgrims’ as they called themselves, were fed up with being treated this way, and decided to sail away to Amsterdam, Holland (present day Netherlands).
However, twelve years of being in the Dutch culture began to affect the Pilgrims. The leaders were worried that this influence on their children was not positive, so they decided to move again, this time to the ‘New World.’ In 1620, they set sail on the Mayflower, with their plan to settle by the Huston river area. Because of harsh weather conditions in the North Atlantic, they were driven off course and landed at Cape Cod. As they were so far from their original destination, the Pilgrims decided to settle right where they were. By the end of December, they finished their journeying at Plymouth (which they called ‘New Plymouth’).
Their first winter there was severely harsh, and about half of them died. When spring finally set in, a local Native American, named Samoset, introduced himself to the Pilgrims. He also brought another Indian, named Squanto, who taught the settlers how to survive and live off the land. Moreover, the Pilgrim governor, William Bradford, signed a peace treaty with the Wampanoag Indians (who Samoset and Squanto were from). By the time harvest rolled around, they had grown and stored enough food to last them thorough the winter. They were so excited, that the Pilgrims decided to hold a three-day feast to celebrate. Many Indians showed up to share the feast as well.
Around two-hundred years later, President Abraham Lincoln declared a national holiday on the last Thursday of November to remember the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving. Later in the 1940s, President Franklin Roosevelt changed it to be celebrated on the second to last Thursday of November.
Despite when we celebrate it, Thanksgiving is a time to be especially grateful for the freedoms we have in America. One especially is the freedom of religion. The pilgrims came to America to seek that freedom, and thank God we, three hundred and forty-four years later, still have that freedom. So this year during this time of thanks, don’t forget to be extra thankful for the sacrifices people have made though the ages so we can enjoy the freedoms we have today. God bless America!