Happy Thanksgiving! Doodle Nov 25, 2010

So how did the Pilgrims and Wampanoag come to be identified with the First Thanksgiving?

In 1622, a letter was printed in a pamphlet that historians commonly call Mourt’s Relation. This published description of the First Thanksgiving was lost during the Colonial period. It was rediscovered in Philadelphia around 1820.  Antiquarian Alexander Young included the entire text in his Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers (1841). Reverend Young saw a similarity between his contemporary American Thanksgiving and the 1621 Harvest Feast, Young writes, “This was the first Thanksgiving, the harvest festival ofNew England.  On this occasion they no doubt feasted on the wild turkey as well as venison.”

Presidents Washington, Adams and Monroe proclaimed national Thanksgivings, but the custom fell out of use by 1815, after which the celebration of the holiday was limited to individual state observances.  By the 1850s, almost every state and territory celebrated Thanksgiving.   A President still had to proclaim Thanksgiving each year, and the last Thursday in November became the customary date.  In a controversial move, Franklin Delano Roosevelt lengthened the Christmas shopping season by declaring Thanksgiving for the next-to-the-last Thursday in November.  Two years later, in 1941, Congress responded by permanently establishing the holiday as the fourth Thursday in the month.

Florida, Texas, Maine and Virginia each declare itself the site of the First Thanksgiving and historical documents support the various claims. Spanish explorers and other English Colonists celebrated religious services of thanksgiving years before Mayflower arrived. However, few people knew about these events until the 20th century. They were isolated celebrations, forgotten long before the establishment of the American holiday, and they played no role in the evolution of Thanksgiving. But as James W. Baker states in his book, Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday, “despite disagreements over the details” the 3-day event in Plymouth in the fall of 1621 was “the historical birth of the American Thanksgiving holiday.”

The Continental Congress proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving in 1777.  A somber event, it specifically recommended “that servile labor and such recreations (although at other times innocent) may be unbecoming the purpose of this appointment [and should] be omitted on so solemn an occasion.”

This Thanksgiving Day Doodle is part of a Series of Three.  To see the other Doodles and More Click on the following link: “Google Fun and Trivia



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