The practice of naming a day for giving thanks every year is common to cultures all around the world and throughout history. Here in the United States, we often look back to 1621 as the start of our Thanksgiving holiday. 1621 is the year after the Puritans arrived in Massachusetts, where they hoped to practice their faith freely.
Since they arrived in December and it was too late in the year to plant much food, their first winter was rough, and about half of the Puritan settlers died. But in the following fall, the harvest was plentiful because American Indian neighbors had taught the settlers how to plant crops like corn (a new food for the colonists) and how to hunt and fish.
To give thanks for the bounty, the Pilgrims (as they were later called) held a feast. They invited about 90 American Indians, who brought deer meat to add to the three-day celebration.
But the Thanksgiving feast didn’t become a yearly holiday right away. In 1789, President George Washington proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day under the Constitution. Other presidents made similar proclamations afterward, and many states began to set aside their own days of thanks. But it wasn’t until Abraham Lincoln and the victory at Gettysburg that the Presidential thanksgiving proclamation became an annual event.
Today, Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday in November. Many people take time to visit family and friends who live far away. Many of the foods that are usually served on Thanksgiving Day are similar to those eaten at the Massachusetts feast in 1621.