And now; The story of Thanksgiving. In case you had forgotten 4th grade history. Part 1: The "Pilgrims". Yes, the "pilgrims" lead by Brewster, Clifton, and Robinson (and I'm using pilgrim in quotation even though 'seperatist' or 'puritan' would be a better fit) left England, but not because they were opressed. Quite the opposite, They found the Church of England (aka. The Episcopalians) too lenient with its morals & goings-on, and felt they needed to "move on" and form a church that followed scripture a little stricter. So they moved to the Netherlands. Whilst in the Netherlands the Rev. Brewster published a series of anti-England writings. The English pressured the Netherlands to put a stop to this and "the pilgrims" decided that they had better move on before the English-suporting Dutch started building gallows. The separtists made a deal with the London Company, a shipping & trade company, for passage and supplies in exchange for goods from a region in northern Virginia colony. Bad weather put them off-course, and they decided to set-up camp in the wilderness that would eventually become Massachusetts. Thinking the voyage to Virginia would be too risky. Since they were in a political "neutral zone", they wrote up their own charter and built a town. In a New England winter. Part 2: Death, Squanto, and the harvest feast. Now safely in their new town of New Plymouth (regular Plymouth was the town in England where they got the boats), the puritan pilgrims promptly froze and starved. And there was probably a rampant disease or two. In all one half to two thirds of the puritans didn't last till spring. Among the dead was Carver. Bradford named himself Governor after Carver died, and in the spring he made a peace treaty with the Wampanoag tribe. (The tribe would kill most of the settlers in the 1660's during King Phillips war, but thats another story). From the Wampanoag tribe came Massasoit and Squanto (aka.Tisquantum) to teach them to fend for themselves in exchange for firearms. The puritan pilgrims were suppost to land in Virginia and few of their seed crops grew well in the northern climate (Tobacco was their largest cash-crop on the ships). So the natives taught them which plants to cultivate and how to hunt the local animals. Squanto (Tisquantum) had been a slave in both England and Spain from 1605 - 1618. He was mostly responsible for the treaty with the English, since he spoke the language. Scholars believe his personal intrest was to aquire more firearms to use against the Spanish settlers who decimated his tribe (the Pawtuxet) with smallpox. He lived with the Puritans for another year, teaching them the tribes language 'Massachusett' (which the colony was named after) before his death in 1622 from a fever. So in 1621 with abundant crops the pilgrims were in no immediate danger of starvation and held a 'harvest festival" in the autumn. It may have been September or October. The western world switched from the Augustine to the Gregorian calender since then, which puts the actual event in either month, depending who you asked. The festival wasn't hed again until 1623 to celebrate the end of a drought. The feast was a big success, and New Plymouth & the pilgrims would be forgotten by history for another 150 years. Part 3: The Revolutionary War During the American Revoultionary war, the continental congress decided that days of thanks & prayers would be made each year. To be celebrated by everyone, but for different events. The first recognised national Thanksgiving was in December of 1777 celebrating Washingtons defeat of the Brittish at Saratoga. Later Washington, now president, would appoint the Thanksgiving holiday on and off until 1799. President Madison declared several days of Thanksgiving in 1815. Part 4: New York and the national Holiday In 1817 the governor of New York set a state-wide 'Day of Thanksgiving" to celebrate the ending of the war of 1812 (1812-1815) to be held every year in December. By 1853 every state had its own "thanksgiving", the dates of which never matched. Part 5: The Civil War During the American civil war, Union president Lincoln made a national mandate that state thanksgivings would be replaced by a national thanksgiving. And I quote: Part 6: Roosevelt and the Depression At this time tradition said it was inappropriate to buy Christmas presents until the day after Thanksgiving. but 1939 had something of a depression going on and president Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving from the last thursday of November to the second-to-the-last thursday in November in hopes of getting more people to spend money. without the approval of congress only 23 states changed the date of Thanksgiving. In 1941 Congress officially changed the date of thanksgiving to the fourth thursday in november (which was a split since there were only 4 thursdays in November some years, and 5 in others) because the Second World War saw a need to increase retail sales (more sales = more taxes = more money for war). Part 7: Conclusion And thats the true story of America's Thanksgiving. Which if you're not confused already is a celebration of the Puritan's treaty with the Wampanoag, Washington's victory over the British at Saratoga, the ending of the War of 1812, a lament of the American Civil War, and lastly, a celebration of the Christmas shopping season. Now go eat some turkey. Its good for you.