Where was the first Thanksgiving in North America? - Thanks Giving day 2018

Friday, August 31, 2018

Where was the first Thanksgiving in North America?

Where was the first Thanksgiving in North America?

The First Thanksgiving in North America

It has become common knowledge that the first Thanksgiving in North America was held by Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew in Newfoundland in 1578. There are those — mainly Americans upset by the thought of having their holiday co-opted — who argue that it wasn't a “real”” Thanksgiving. I would counter that Frobisher had reason to give thanks, and that giving thanks was an important aspect of Elizabethan society, so it would have been a natural thing for him and his men to do.
Sir Martin Frobisher, mariner, explorer, chaser of fool’s gold, made three voyages from England to the “New World” in search of a passage to Asia. He was the first European to discover the bay that is named for him and returned with tons of dirt that he thought contained gold. Each expedition was bigger than the preceding one and on his third, in 1578, he commanded a flotilla of 15 ships and more than 400 men. They set sail on 31 May for Baffin Island, where they intended to establish a gold mining operation and the first English colony in North America. On 1 July, they sighted Resolution Island, but they were driven by storms across the entrance to Hudson Strait. The fleet was dispersed and one ship, which carried their prefabricated barracks, was sunk by ice. Another ship deserted the flotilla and sailed back to England. The remaining ships assembled at the Countess of Warwick’s Island, which is known today as Kodlunarn Island, a tiny speck of land in Frobisher Bay. They established two mines on the island and set up shops to test the ore from other mines. The mine sites and the ruins of a stone house are still clearly visible.
Vicious storms blew the fleet around Hudson Strait for most of July and when they finally assembled at their anchorage in Frobisher Bay, they celebrated Communion and formally expressed their thanks through the ship’s Chaplain, Robert Wolfall, who “made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankefull to God for theyr strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places” (Richard Collinson, The Three Voyages of Martin Frobisher: In Search of a Passage to Cathaia and India by the North-West, Cambridge University Press, 
While Thanksgiving is traditionally a harvest celebration and Frobisher’s was for a safe arrival, it was undeniably an act of giving thanks, one committed with relief and within the context of their society. Frobisher sailed for Elizabeth I, whose reign was marked by public acts of giving thanks. Elizabeth expressed her gratitude for having lived to ascend the throne (and not being killed by “Bloody Mary”), for delivery from the Spanish Armada and, in her last speech to Parliament, for her subjects.
The first known use of the word “Thanksgiving” in English text was in a translation of the bible in 1533, which was intended as an act of giving thanks to God. The tradition of gratitude was continued each fall as people gave thanks for the harvest that would see them through the winter. The observance of this tradition was conducted by the Pilgrims’ first harvest in Massachusetts in 1621, and was as much an expression of gratitude and relief at having survived their arrival in the “New World” as it was for the bringing in of the harvest.
The celebration was brought to Nova Scotia in the 1750s and the citizens of Halifax commemorated the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763 with a day of Thanksgiving. Loyalists carried the celebration to other parts of the country. In 1879, Parliament declared 6 November as a day of Thanksgiving; it was celebrated as a national rather than a religious holiday. Later and earlier dates were observed, the most popular being the third Monday in October. After the First World War, Thanksgiving and Armistice Day (later Remembrance Day) were celebrated in the same week. It was not until 31 January 1957 that Parliament proclaimed “a day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed,” to be observed on the second Monday in October.

Thanksgiving in North America: From Local Harvests to National Holiday

Most Americans are familiar with the Pilgrim's Thanksgiving Feast of 1621, but few realize that it was not the first festival of its kind in North America. Long before Europeans set foot in the Americas, native peoples sought to insure a good harvest with dances and rituals such as the Green Corn Dance of the Cherokees.
 
The first Thanksgiving service known to be held by Europeans in North America occurred on May 27, 1578, in Newfoundland, although earlier Church-type services were probably held by Spaniards in La Florida. However, for British New England, some historians believe that the Popham Colony in Maine conducted a Thanksgiving service in 1607 (see Sources: Greif, 208-209; Gould, and Hatch). In the same year, Jamestown colonists gave thanks for their safe arrival, and another service was held in 1610 when a supply ship arrived after a harsh winter. Berkley Hundred settlers held a Thanksgiving service in accordance with their charter which stated that the day of their arrival in Virginia should be observed yearly as a day of Thanksgiving, but within a few years an Indian uprising ended further services (Dabney). Thus British colonists held several Thanksgiving services in America before the Pilgrim's celebration in 1621.
 
The Pilgrims, with a puritanical rejection of public religious display, held a non-religious Thanksgiving feast, aside from saying grace. In fact, they seem to have used the three days for feasting, playing games, and even drinking liquor.
 
In 1623, the Pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation, Massachusetts, held another day of Thanksgiving. As a drought was destroying their crops, colonists prayed and fasted for relief; the rains came a few days later. And not long after, Captain Miles Standish arrived with staples and news that a Dutch supply ship was on its way. Because of all this good fortune, colonists held a day of Thanksgiving and prayer on June 30. This 1623 festival appears to have been the origin of our Thanksgiving Day because it combined a religious and social celebration.

Where was the first Thanksgiving in North America?
 
Festivals of Thanksgiving were observed sporadically on a local level for more than 150 years. They tended to be autumn harvest celebrations. But in 1789, Elias Boudinot, Massachusetts, member of the House of Representatives, moved that a day of Thanksgiving be held to thank God for giving the American people the opportunity to create a Constitution to preserve their hard won freedoms. A Congressional Joint Committee approved the motion, and informed President George Washington. On October 3, 1789, the President proclaimed that the people of the United States observe "a day of public thanksgiving and prayer" on Thursday, the 26th of November.
 
The next three Presidents proclaimed, at most, two days of thanksgiving sometime during their terms of office, either on their own initiative or at the request of a joint Resolution of Congress. One exception was Thomas Jefferson, who believed it was a conflict of church and state to require the American people hold a day of prayer and thanksgiving. President James Madison proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving to be held on April 13, 1815, the last such proclamation issued by a President until Abraham Lincoln did so in 1862.
 
Most of the credit for the establishment of an annual Thanksgiving holiday may be given to Sarah Josepha Hale. Editor of Ladies Magazine and Godey's Lady's Book, she began to agitate for such a day in 1827 by printing articles in the magazines. She also published stories and recipes, and wrote scores of letters to governors, senators, and presidents. After 36 years of crusading, she won her battle. On October 3, 1863, buoyed by the Union victory at Gettysburg, President Lincoln proclaimed that November 26, would be a national Thanksgiving Day, to be observed every year on the fourth Thursday of November.
 
Only twice has a president changed the day of observation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in order to give depression-era merchants more selling days before Christmas, assigned the third Thursday to be Thanksgiving Day in 1939 and 1940. But he was met with popular resistance, largely because the change required rescheduling Thanksgiving Day events such as football games and parades. In 1941, a Congressional Joint Resolution officially set the fourth Thursday of November as a national holiday for Thanksgiving.
 
Today, Thanksgiving is a time when many families come together, and many churches are open for special services. We have both Native Americans and immigrants to thank for the opportunity to observe a day of thanksgiving.
 
Sources:
 
Bradford, William. Bradford's History of the Plymouth Settlement 1608-1650. Valerian Paget, ed. (New York: John McBride Co., 1909), and his Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647. Samuel Eliot. ed. (New York: Knopf, 1979.) Also, Bradford and Winslow. Mourt's Relation: Journall of the English Plantation at Plimoth. University Microfilms, Inc., 1966.
 
Greif, Martin. The Holiday Book. (New York: Universe Books, 1978).
 
Hatch, Jane M. The American Book of Days, 3rd ed. (New York: Wilson Co., 1978).
 
Linton, Ralph and Adelin. We Gather Together: The Story of Thanksgiving. (New York: Henry Schuman, 1949).
 
Myers, Robert. Celebrations: The Complete Book of American Holidays. (New York: Doubleday and Co., 1972).
 
Saturday Evening Post. "A Setting for the First Thanksgiving," by Virginius Dabney, 253 (November 1981), 12, 14, 88, 118; and "Who Says They Were First?" by John Gould, 231 (November 1958), 39, 112, 115-6.
 
Schaun, George and Virginia. American Holidays and Special Days. (Lanham: Maryland Historical Press, 1986).
 
Scherer, Margaret R. Thanksgiving and Harvest Festivals. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1942).
 
Sickel, H.S.J. Thanksgiving: Its Source, Philosophy, and History with all National Proclamations and Analytical Study Thereof. (Philadelphia: International Printing Co., 1940).







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Where was the first Thanksgiving in North America?

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