Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863. However, the first Thanksgiving feast took place in Plymouth, Massachusetts, 242 years earlier in 1621. Throughout the Colonial era, English settlers in New England held days to give thanks to God for their blessings, such as much-needed rainfall, and later on for victories in the Revolutionary War.
What we celebrated as the first Thanksgiving brought together the pilgrims and their Native American neighbors—people from different backgrounds, cultures, and values, all sitting at the same table. While they had a lot of differences, the first Thanksgiving was about finding a way to connect and celebrate over what we had in common. It’s easy to see our differences, but there is real value in celebrating what we all have in common.
“Peace with foreign nations, expanding borders, growing population, and farms, mines, and industry that were producing well.“
Kilpatrick says he was asking Americans in the North and the South to “look beyond the current horrors to a better day when the country is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increases of freedom.”
While many continued to celebrate Thanksgiving, Lincoln’s proclamation did not have the force of law. For that, the Tha