The History of Thanksgiving

Why exactly is it that we celebrate Thanksgiving? Read on and you will find out.

thanksgivingpie.jpg (1536×1024) (

Why exactly is it that we celebrate Thanksgiving? Read on and you will find out.

Ah, yes, Thanksgiving. A day for spending time with family, eating lots of turkey, and, of course, giving thanks for everything good in our lives. But why exactly is it that we celebrate this holiday? Read on and you will find out.

Most of us know the story of the First Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims got off the Mayflower in 1620, and some of the Native Americans decided to help them farm and hunt in the unfamiliar territory. In the autumn of 1621, the Pilgrims’ first harvest was a success. They celebrated this by cooking a feast and inviting their Native American allies to a three-day celebration. This was the First Thanksgiving. 

In 1623, a drought threatened the colonists and their harvest. When it was over, another “day of thanksgiving” was celebrated. Similar celebrations continued for the next 200 years, sometimes several times annually. These Thanksgiving celebrations were held for varied reasons throughout the year. 

However, in 1827, a writer named Sarah Josepha Hale decided that Thanksgiving should be a national holiday. She sent letters to Abraham Lincoln, the president at the time, and wrote essays on the topic for nearly forty years! Eventually, Lincoln agreed, and the holiday was made national in 1863.

Lincoln made the holiday the last Thursday in November, and it was celebrated then until 1939, at the height of the Great Depression. At that point, Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted the holiday to be a week earlier. He thought that it would boost retail sales. However, this “Franksgiving” was met with avid disagreement. Thanksgiving, from then all the way to now, is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.

And there you have it: a history of Thanksgiving. Feel free to commit this all to memory and have fun beating your family members at Thanksgiving trivia over the dinner table. Or you could forget it instantly and go watch the Macy’s Day Parade and eat pumpkin pie — that works, too.


By Elise Fujawa ‘28, Contributing Writer