Thanksgiving Fact Sheet

Explore the background of this American holiday - from the first Thanksgiving during Colonial times to it's official declaration by Congress.
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Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday in the United States commemorating the harvest reaped by the Plymouth Colony in 1621, after a winter of great starvation and privation. In that year Gov. William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving, and the feast was shared by all the colonists and the neighboring Native Americans. Although similar observances were held locally, they were sporadic and at no set time. After the American Revolution the first national Thanksgiving Day, proclaimed by George Washington, was Nov. 26, 1789. Abraham Lincoln, urged by Sarah J. Hale, revived the custom in 1863, appointing as the date the last Thursday of November. In 1939, 1940, and 1941 Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Thanksgiving the third Thursday in November. When a contradiction arose between Roosevelt's proclamation and some of those of state governors, Congress passed a joint resolution in 1941 decreeing that Thanksgiving should fall on the fourth Thursday of November. The day is observed by church services and family reunions; the customary turkey dinner is a reminder of the four wild turkeys served at the Pilgrims' first thanksgiving feast.

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