According to tradition, Thanksgiving was a coming together of two people of different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs in 1621. So the story goes that on this occasion, the Plymouth colonists only survived their first year in the new world thanks to the Native Americans teaching them how to grow food and weather the harsh conditions. To celebrate and show their gratitude, the Pilgrims feasted with the Wampanoag tribe on the autumn harvest for three days.
Over the years similar occasions would be held in the young country as it grew in territory and population. It wasn’t until 1827 that the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” Sarah Joseph Hale undertook a 36-year campaign to have Thanksgiving declared a national holiday.
Finally in 1863 when the country was suffering through the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln officially designated the final Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving Day. His hope was to “commend to his (God’s) tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners and sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”
However, that date changed during the Depression when President Franklin Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week to encourage additional shopping.
Today, Thanksgiving has turned into a day of feasting, parades and football with families and friends. But its roots still hold true — to show gratitude regardless of differences and “heal the wounds of the nation.”