As Thanksgiving approaches, many in the United States will be flying or driving home to their loved ones to celebrate things that they would feel thankful for, a holiday that a great many use to eat good food and have good times with those that they care about.

With that in mind, before doing the long-standing traditions that you and your family may have, why don’t you take a moment to get to know the history of the holiday and why we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States? It might give you more things to be grateful about.

When did it start?

The first Thanksgiving was traced back to 1621 after the Mayflower ship arrived in what was then known as the “New World.” The people in the ship had left Plymouth, England for new horizons, establishing the village of Plymouth at Massachusetts Bay in what is now known as New England, according to History.

The new arrivals, dubbed the Pilgrims, were able to make contact with the Wampanoag tribe, from which they forged an alliance as the tribe helped the Pilgrims learn how to use the land that they set foot on for their benefit.

Eventually, after their first successful harvest, 50 Pilgrims–including three women–and a hundred people from the Wampanoag tribe all came together for a three-day feast to celebrate the bountiful harvest in what is now known as Thanksgiving.

Despite this entrenched history, some scholars believe that the Mayflower Thanksgiving is not the first one: some claim that the first one happened in 1565 between Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilé and the local Timucua tribe in Florida.

What kind of food did they eat?

We know that modern traditions for Thanksgiving dictates things like turkeys, pies, sweet potatoes, and other carb-heavy delicacies to be prepared for the holiday, but the first Thanksgiving was likely filled with hunted and scavenged food prepared in the ways of the Wampanoag tribe.

Among the different kinds of food believed to have been served then were deer, “fowls” believed to be ducks and goose, different kinds of fishes and oysters, as well as the vegetables harvested at the time, which some believe includes current Thanksgiving delicacies like pumpkins and cranberries.

Historians believe that desserts like pies and cake weren’t served at the celebration due to the fact that the Mayflower’s sugar supply had been significantly depleted during their first year in the country. That may be something to be thankful for when coming into your Thanksgiving this year.

When did Thanksgiving become a holiday?

While the Continental Congress formed during the American Revolution designated days of Thanksgiving for every year, it wasn’t until 1789 when President George Washington signed the Thanksgiving proclamation to celebrate the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.

Thanksgiving as we know did not become a legal holiday immediately: New York had made it a holiday in 1817, and many states followed the practice; despite this, many of the American South did not participate in the holiday.

Finally, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation in 1863 ratifying Thanksgiving as a national holiday to happen on the fourth Thursday of every November, a rule that was followed till present day except for a small blip between 1939 and 1941 when President Franklin Roosevelt moved it to the third Thursday.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

As you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, don’t forget to list down the many things in your life that you should celebrate, whether it’s the company of your loved ones, or the good food on your table that you get to enjoy, or the opportunities that you received for work or for life. Like the Pilgrims beforehand, there are many things to be grateful for, and they might be worth celebrating this year.

Thanksgiving Holiday Background Rep. Pic
As Thanksgiving comes around this year, get to know some information and history about the holiday that can make you find new reasons to be grateful and thankful this season. This is a representational image. Claudio Schwarz/Unsplash.

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