The fourth Thursday of every November, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a holiday about sharing time with family, giving thanks for all of the great things in your life, and of course, eating turkey! It is a holiday ripe with traditions, and as time has passed, many new traditions have developed. From carving the turkey and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to cheering on your favorite football team and planning your Black Friday shopping strategy, everyone has their annual ritual. Below, see a timeline I made in Grapher 11 showing some major Thanksgiving events that have taken place over the years. Stay tuned for a future blog post about creating a timeline in Grapher!
Timeline of American Thanksgiving History
The event known as the “First Thanksgiving” took place in 1621 when the pilgrims who journeyed to the United States on the Mayflower celebrated their first harvest in the New World, and it was declared a national holiday in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln. However, the United States is not the only country to celebrate Thanksgiving. Canada, Brazil, Liberia, Grenada, Puerto Rico, and Norfolk Island all celebrate a Thanksgiving holiday. Many other countries celebrate a similar holiday centered around being thankful for the year’s fortunes, including Germany’s Erntedankfest festival, China’s August Moon Festival, and India’s Pongal celebration. The celebration is not exclusive to our modern world. As far back as history is recorded, there are accounts of harvest festivals that celebrate the season’s crop yield, health, favorable weather, and other prosperity.
However, America would not have the Thanksgiving holiday that we celebrate today had the Pilgrims not made the treacherous journey across the Atlantic Ocean. The quest was not without difficulty. The Mayflower began its journey in London and sailed to Southampton in July of 1620 to begin preparing for the voyage ahead. In Southampton, the Mayflower was joined by the Speedwell, a ship hired in Delfshaven to accompany the Mayflower on the trip. The two ships set sail from Southampton, but the Speedwell soon began to leak. The ships made a detour in Dartmouth to patch up the Speedwell, but soon it began to leak again. One more time, the vessels set of on their journey to America. However, the Speedwell was still leaking, so after about 300 miles, the ships turned back to Plymouth, England. Here, the Speedwell was left behind. The cargo was transferred to the Mayflower, and on September 6, 1620, the ship left England on its way to Northern Virginia. The first half of the trip went smoothly, but about halfway across the Atlantic, major storms developed that pushed the Mayflower off course to the north. The Pilgrims made a pit stop in Newfoundland to stock up on supplies, and on November 21, 1620, the Mayflower dropped its anchor in what is now Provincetown Harbor, Massachusetts before continuing on to Plymouth and the symbolic Plymouth Rock. Below is a map that shows the stops along the Mayflower’s journey to Plymouth. In the autumn of next year after the first harvest in America, approximately 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans celebrated with a three-day feast. An American tradition began!
Map of the Mayflower's Route to America