Somewhere along the way, Thanksgiving became a day to eat a lot, watch football, and try not to commit felonious assault against your relatives. Yes, this is what we have evolved Thanksgiving into, but let's talk about where it came from, shall we? From Wikipedia:
Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day, presently celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, has been an annual tradition in the United States since 1863. It did not become a federal holiday until 1941. Thanksgiving was historically a religious observation to give thanks to God, but is now primarily identified as a secular holiday.
The First Thanksgiving was celebrated to give thanks to God for helping the pilgrims survive the brutal winter. The first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days providing enough food for 53 pilgrims and 90 Indians. The traditional Thanksgiving menu often features turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. Americans may eat these foods on modern day Thanksgiving, but the first feast did not consist of these items. On the first feast turkey was any type of fowl that the pilgrims hunted. Pumpkin pie wasn't on the menu because there were no ovens for baking, but they did have boiled pumpkin. Cranberries weren't introduced at this time. Due to the diminishing supply of flour there was no bread of any kind. The foods included in the first feast included duck, geese, venison, fish, lobster, clams, swan, berries, dried fruit, pumpkin, squash, and many more vegetables.
Pilgrims is a name commonly applied to early settlers of the Plymouth Colony in present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts. Their leadership came from a religious congregation who had fled a volatile political environment in the East Midlands of England for the relative calm & tolerance of Holland in the Netherlands. Concerned with losing their cultural identity, the group later arranged with English investors to establish a new colony in North America. The colony, established in 1620, became the oldest continuously inhabited British settlement and the second successful English settlement (after the founding of Jamestown, Virginian 1607) in what was to become the United States of America. The Pilgrims' story of seeking religious freedom has become a central theme of the history and culture of the United States.
That all sounds well and good but as our dear, departed Malcolm X stated, "We didn't land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us." What a lot of these original (traditional) historic accounts fail to tell you is that the pilgrims were some grave-robbing, raping and killing, slave trading SOBs who were drop kicked out of their own countries. Smallpox was Eurpoean disease until they wrapped it up in a blanket (literally) and delivered it to Native Americans like a Trojan Horse. Here's some interesting history from the United Native American Bureau:
The year was 1637.....700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe, gathered for their "Annual Green Corn Dance" in the area that is now known as Groton, Conn. While they were gathered in this place of meeting, they were surrounded and attacked by mercenaries of the English and Dutch. The Indians were ordered from the building and as they came forth, they were shot down. The rest were burned alive in the building.The next day, the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared: "A day of Thanksgiving, thanking God that they had eliminated over 700 men, women and children. For the next 100 years, every "Thanksgiving Day" ordained by a Governor or President was to honor that victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.The Pilgrims of New England, who came to this country in 1620, were not simple refugees from England fighting against oppression and religious discrimination. They were political revolutionaries and part of the Puritan movement, which was considered objectionable and unorthodox by the King of the Church of England. They were outcasts in their own country, plotting to take over the government, causing some of the settlers to become fugitives in their own country.These Puritan Pilgrims saw themselves as the "chosen elect", from the Bibles' Book of Revelations and traveled to America to build "The Kingdom of God", also from Revelations. Strict with the scripture, they considered an enemy of anyone who did not follow suit. These beliefs were eventually transmitted to the other colonists, and the Puritan belief system quickly spread across the New England area.Source: Documents of Holland, 13 Volume Colonial Documentary History, letters and reports form colonial officials to their superiors and the King in England and the private papers of Sir William Johnson, British Indian agent for the New York colony for 30 years. Researched by William B. Newell (Penobscot Tribe) Former Chairman of the University of Connecticut Anthropology Department.