The fourth Thursday in November is Thanksgiving in the United States, a national holiday celebrating the first anniversary of the establishment of one of the earliest permanent English colonies in North America.
On November 11, 1620, the ship Mayflower, carrying 102 settlers, who came to be known as Pilgrims, arrived at the shores of North America. They were the first of a group of religious separatists who refused to follow the teachings of the Church of England, a punishable offence in their native country.
So, they made the decision to leave Europe and establish a farming village in the northern part of the Virginia Colony, which had been settled 13 years earlier. Accidentally landing nearly a thousand kilometers too far north, they nevertheless decided to stay, finally settling on a spot a little south of today’s city of Boston in the state of Massachusetts. There they founded Plymouth Colony.
That first year in North America was very difficult. Although they were not starving, thanks in part to support from the local native population of the Wampanoag people, within the first two months, two thirds of them died. But the fall of 1621 brought plentiful crops, and as the end of the harvest coincided with the anniversary of their arrival in North America, the Pilgrims celebrated.
Fifty-three settlers sat down to a feast with 90 of their Wampanoag neighbors, dining on wild fowl, venison and a variety of vegetables. But first came heart-felt prayers, thanking God for His forbearance which allowed them to survive.
“This American spirit of gratitude dates back to our earliest days, when the Pilgrims celebrated a successful first harvest, thanks to the generosity and support of the Wampanoag people,” said President Joe Biden. “It inspired George Washington to give his troops a day of prayer and thanks amid fierce fighting for American independence. It also moved Abraham Lincoln to proclaim Thanksgiving a national holiday, honoring America’s bounty and asking God to bring us together to care for one another and heal our Nation.”
Today, Thanksgiving is still all about family and food. Holiday dinner still features autumn vegetables, but instead of venison and wild fowl, the feast centers on a roasted turkey.
“This Thanksgiving, as homes across America fill with laughter, favorite family foods, and the joy of friends and relatives reuniting,” said President Biden, “we give thanks for everything that is good in our lives and reflect on the many blessings of our Nation.”