When you think of Thanksgiving, what do you usually think about? How much you’ve been blessed? How much food you get to eat? Or the time spent with friends and family? My family and I always gather around a big table stuffed with plenty of food and decorations. Most of the time we can’t even see the table!

Eating a big Thanksgiving meal has never been my favorite part of the day, but I find that the event I love most is where we go around to each person and say one or two things that we are thankful for. But who can only be thankful for one thing? Not me! I have so many things to be thankful for that it would take hours for me to list all of them—well, most of them at least.

We are all talking about what it means to be thankful, why we should be thankful and that’s great! But I am going to go against the grain and present to you a question to ponder on: do you know the true history of how Thanksgiving came to be a holiday in America? Do you know how it got started?

 In all honesty, I am a lover of anything that involves the history of America and have always been curious about the history of this “thankful” holiday. A few weeks back I was reading a chapter in my history book for my college history class and was astonished to learn something that I obviously didn’t know before!

We have all learned from school or from textbooks that the origin of thanksgiving started with the Pilgrims, right? Well, let’s take a trip through time and uncover the truth about our national holiday—Thanksgiving.

Most of us associate Thanksgiving with happy Pilgrims and Indians gathered together for one big feast. And that did happen—once. We always associate the Pilgrims as the ones who started this big tradition. You may be surprised to know that the Pilgrims did not start this holiday. In fact, Thanksgiving wasn’t considered a holiday until 1863!

This wasn’t the first Thanksgiving in the New World. The Native American gave thanks this time of year to their gods for the bountiful harvest they had acquired during the year. Thanksgiving had been going on long before the Pilgrims ever set foot on our country’s fertile ground and way before it became a national Christian holiday.

The Native Americans taught the struggling new comers how to live off the land by growing corn, fishing, about the different edible foods, herbs and fruits of the land. Our history textbooks tell us that the first Thanksgiving with the Native Americans and Pilgrims was a peaceful celebration conducted in the year1621. The reason of this abundant feast was so that the Pilgrims could show their gratitude to the Native Americans for teaching them how to grow crops and allowing them to live in peace. 

This statement is true, but there is another reason why the Pilgrims shared this day with the Natives—they had anterior motives. Let the truth be told—the very same Pilgrims who shared the “first” Thanksgiving later stole the Native American’s land, enslaved many young Native Americans, and then killed the rest. This first Thanksgiving did not become an annual tradition for Pilgrims, thus it was not a holiday.

The Thanksgiving holiday was established by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 during the Civil War. Lincoln made a proclamation declaring Thanksgiving a national holiday stating that
“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.” (Abraham Lincoln, 1863).
Most people do not know this half of the story, they are usually taught that the Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving every year, yet I have come to learn that this was not true. Thanksgiving did not become a holiday until the Civil War, and it is relatively easy to understand why. In a time when people were divided and our country threatening to split in two, the only one thing to do, in a time so uncertain was to give thanks to God no matter what was lost or what was gained. I pray to Him that our country will remain united under God and will remain sovereign and free.


  1. Hi Emily!

    I was just looking through Libby's followers, and I saw your blog! I've seen you (well, you're comments) around alot, and I wanted to check out your blog!VERY cool! :)

    I love all that you write one Thanksgiving. Thanks so much for sharing! :)

    God Bless You,

    P.S. (Are you a follower of my[our, Libby's, Maggie's and I's, that is) blog? I see the button! Thanks so much if you are! Do you mind if I follow your blog?)


Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Please keep your comments clean. So, please no foul language.

Popular Posts