For thousands of years, mankind has set aside a day each year to celebrate bountiful annual harvests. Before the establishment of formal religions, many ancient farmers believed that their crops contained spirits which caused the crops to grow and die. Many believed that these spirits would be released when the crops were harvested and they had to be destroyed or they would take revenge on the farmers who harvested them. Some of the harvest festivals celebrated the defeat of these spirits. Harvest festivals and Thanksgiving celebrations were held by the ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Hebrews, the Chinese, and the Egyptians.
What is the history of Thanksgiving in United States? The initial "Thanksgiving" feast, held in 1621, was really a traditional English harvest celebration. The Pilgrims shared it with the Native Americans because they had taught the colonists to plants crops and hunt wild game. Without the Native Americans, the Pilgrims may not have survived the harsh winter and been able to celebrate their first harvest of plentiful crops in the New World. The colonists' first harvest feast lasted for three days. Food was served all at once, instead of in courses, so people ate whatever they pleased in the order that they desired. The more important members at the feast were given the best pieces of meat, while the rest of the diners ate whatever was closest to them. Since the Pilgrims didn't use forks or plates, they ate their meal straight off the table with spoons, knives or their fingers. They used large napkins to wipe their hands and also wrapped it around food when it was too hot to hold.
The history of Thanksgiving demonstrates that feasts like the one at Plymouth were held throughout the colonies after fall harvests. However, all thirteen colonies did not celebrate Thanksgiving at the same time. In 1789, George Washington became the first president to declare Thanksgiving a holiday. By the mid-1800s, many states observed the Thanksgiving holiday. Meanwhile, the poet and editor, Sarah J. Hale, had begun lobbying for a national Thanksgiving holiday. During the Civil War President Abraham Lincoln looking for ways to unite the nation, discussed the subject with Hale. In 1863 he gave his Thanksgiving Proclamation declaring the last Thursday in November a day of Thanksgiving.
In 1939, 1940, and 1941 Franklin D. Roosevelt, seeking to lengthen the Christmas shopping season, proclaimed Thanksgiving the third Thursday in November. Controversy ensued, and Congress passed a joint resolution in 1941 decreeing that Thanksgiving should fall on the fourth Thursday of November, where it remains. What is Thanksgiving today? At its heart, it's a holiday where family and friends congregate to catch up, reminisce, tell jokes, share scrumptious food and generally give thanks for all the good things in life-exactly what they did at the very first Thanksgiving.