In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers all looking to start a new life in a new world. After a treacherous journey, the Pilgrims made it to their New World and began work establishing a village at Plymouth.
However, most of them stayed onboard the ship during the first brutal winter and suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the original passengers survived to see spring, but when they moved ashore that March they received a very pleasant surprise: a visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English.
He later brought another Native American, Squanto, who taught the settlers many valuable skills such as how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest was successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast for the Pilgrims and their Native American allies, which ended up lasting three days. This became known as America’s “first Thanksgiving.”
From then on the tradition continued and during the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year. In 1789, President George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government and his successors, John Adams and James Madison, also designated days of thanksgiving during their presidencies.
In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday although this remained a largely unfamiliar tradition to those living in the South. In 1863, at the height of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November, which remains the same today.
In many American households, the Thanksgiving celebration is marked by football games, spending time with family and friends, parades, and a whole lot of food. Turkey, although perhaps not have even been offered at the first Thanksgiving, has become the symbol of Thanksgiving and is usually accompanied by stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.
At Orlando Health, we are especially thankful for our amazing team and technologies, and for the wonderful opportunity to positively impact the health and lives of our patients and our community.