The First Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving leaves
Thanksgiving leaves
Thanksgiving leaves
“Thanksgiving Day” is a popular American holiday. It is a day to get together with family
and friends, share a feast, play games, watch parades and be thankful for all the good things
in your life.  The first Thanksgiving took place in America in 1621.  
Why? What happened at the first Thanksgiving? History tells us this story.
Four hundred years ago, there lived a group of people in England. They were called Protestants
or  Separatists. They were not happy, because they were not allowed to worship God the way
they wanted.  They were tortured for following their religious beliefs.
Finally these people decided to leave their motherland and everything they loved behind,
and travel to the “New land” called “America”. There they would have the freedom of practicing
their religion. So on September 6th 1620, a total of 101 men, women and children set out to sail,
from the town of Plymouth in England, in a ship called “Mayflower”.        
These  people are now widely recognized as pilgrims. The word “pilgrim”  
                                                  means a wanderer or traveler, making a religious journey.
After a long journey of two months, across the rough Atlantic Ocean the pilgrims reached land
on Nov. 11th 1620.  The region where they landed was called Cape Cod by English sailors.
At once they started building their colony. They named their settlement “New Plymouth” after 
the town in England from where they started their journey. It was mid winter and the pilgrims
faced  a harsh beginning. With scarcity of food and supplies they struggled to survive through
the winter. Half  the group died. The remaining held on to their hope and faith.
The pilgrims were not the first people to settle in the new territory.  It had been inhabited by
Native  Americans (Indians) who called themselves the “Wampanoag” meaning “People of the Light”.
They had been watching the pilgrims closely. As spring approached, in March they contacted the
pilgrims, welcomed them and extended a hand of peace and friendship. Their chief named 
Massasoit visited the Plymouth village himself.  He brought with him an Indian named Squanto.
Squanto could speak English.   He stayed with the pilgrims and taught them about  
native plants and animals. He showed them how to fish, plant corn & squash and    
collect berries. Without his help the pilgrims may not have survived. During  the     
summer the pilgrims worked hard in their fields. They knew that without a good    
                                harvest they would not be able to survive the next winter. 
The growing season passed and the pilgrims had much to be thankful for. 
They had regained their strength; they had a good and plentiful harvest.
They had good houses  and good friends. They decided to celebrate the harvest and
thank God for his blessings. They invited the Indians to join the feast. The food was prepared using
the fruit, vegetables and animals found in the new land. Women made breads, corn cakes, popcorn
and pies. They used squashes, yams and various berries.  Clam and oysters were cooked.
Men hunted for turkey, geese and ducks. Indian chief “Massasoit” joined the party with his ninety 
braves. They brought with them five deer as their gift for the feast. The feast continued for three days.
People celebrated with games, contests and dancing.
Every year on our national holiday we remember that "long ago feast" called the “First Thanksgiving”
celebrated in 1621.  However this was not the first “harvest festival” ever celebrated.
Harvest festivals have been celebrated all over the world for ages. After harvest times farmers
usually celebrate and thank God for a good harvest. Even the “Wampanoags” had celebrated
harvest festivals long before the English settlers came.
In 1941, “Thanksgiving Day” was declared a “National Holiday”, to be celebrated every year on
the fourth Thursday of November. It is a holiday for all Americans.
Write about the Thanksgiving that you celebrate in your house.
What do you like best about Thanksgiving?
Listen to the story or click on any of the underlined words to hear those words.
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