An excerpt from the book Celebrations by Jim McCann & Jeanne Benedict:
Most of us know the story of this holiday from an elementary school play where we donned pilgrim hats or feathers acting out the first Thanksgiving feast. In the 17th century our forefathers set sail on the Mayflower in search of a happier way of life and religious freedom.
They landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts around 1620. Ironically, there is no reference to the actual rock as a landing place in pilgrims' accounts, but they do cite the famed piece of granite in writings about 100 years later.
Plymouth was as good a place as any to settle and the pilgrims were soon befriended by whom we now refer to as the Native American Indians. The first winter was severe and many pilgrims lost their lives to the elements.
Seeing the hardships of these struggling people, the Indians took the pilgrims under their wing and taught them the way of the land. Squanto, as he was called by the pilgrims, and others from his tribe showed the newcomers how to plant corn and squash and to hunt and fish. As a result of working together the harvest was bountiful. A feast was held to give thanks for the gifts of the land and kindness of the Indians.
The actual date of the first Thanksgiving is unknown. In the coming years, the pilgrims feasted only when the harvest was plentiful. And over the next century records indicate that the handful of people that populated the nation had some sort of Autumnal celebration.
Apparently George Washington attempted to set Thanksgiving on November 26, 1789, but with the political turmoil of the day the feast never made it into the official records. In 1863 Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving and every president following Lincoln had made the same declaration.
It wasn't until 1941 that President Roosevelt signed a bill that designated the fourth Thursday in November as the national holiday of Thanksgiving. Some hold hands in silent prayer while others express gratitude aloud, but all gather around the table and give thanks for what they have.
Create your own Thanksgiving Traditions. Visit us at http://www.tableambiance.com/ to view our Fall table setting ideas that can be easily created onto your Thanksgiving table.