The Pilgrims and Native Americans did not invent Thanksgiving, but they embraced the concept and made it their own. Harvest festivals have been celebrated for thousands of years by many peoples, tribes, and nations in appreciation of the bounty produced by their hard work on the land. America has turned the end-of-harvest feast into the holiday of Thanksgiving, marking the story of the colonials of Massachusetts and the Wampanoag people in 1621, who enjoyed peace together for a time.
Early New World settlers were happy simply to survive the weather, wildlife, insects, and poison ivy, so they understood accepting the friendship and sharing the food of the Wampanoags was a blessing.
But over the years, that all changed. European settlers overpowered the natives, driving them off their land and spreading new diseases. It didn’t take long for that early friendship to fall apart.
Politicians Impose Gratefulness
Harvest festivals continued up and down the Eastern Seaboard, while colonists dealt with New World problems, especially the American Revolution. That ended with a newly created U.S. Constitution in 1789. President George Washington issued a proclamation calling Nov. 26 of that year as a “Day of Publick Thanksgiving,” saying Americans should appreciate their new chance at government.
President Abraham Lincoln took Washington’s proclamation and issued another one during the Civil War. Lincoln expressed his gratitude to God for the victory at the Battle of Gettysburg, calling upon his countrymen to “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” Traditionally, the last Thursday in November was set aside as a day of American Thanksgiving – where people should be grateful for something and count their blessings.
Just for One Day Let’s Embrace Our Pilgrim Attitude
In 1621, folks had the right attitude. They were simply happy to be alive. They didn’t care about skin color or that they had different cultures. Somehow, they made it work.