History and Origin
The celebration of Thanksgiving in America was probably derived from the harvest-home ceremonies originally held in England. These were days reserved to thank God for plentiful crops and a bountiful harvest. Accordingly, this holiday still takes place late in the Fall Season, after crops have been gathered.
It started a long time back. During the ancient times the farmers used to believe that the crops that they harvest contain spirits. And they get released when the crops are harvested which might come as a threat to the farmers. To destroy these spirits the farmers used to celebrate these harvest festivals. Thanksgiving or these kinds of harvest festivals were prevalent in ancient Greece, Egypt, China and Rome.
History has lot of controversies about the time when Thanksgiving started. However, the first traditional Thanksgiving was revered at Plymouth Plantation in the year 1621. Today, it is celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November and the second Monday in October in Canada. Thanksgiving dinner is held on this day with family and friends.
Another account tells that it all started with the arrival of the Pilgrims, the fortune hunters for the "New World" from Plymouth, England in 1620. They were sailing on small boat named "Mayflower" which was over crowded with passengers with two separate schools of thoughts. One was 'Saints' and the other was 'Strangers'. When they sighted a land after 66 days of deadly voyage in November, they all descended and came to a peace treaty that all the people will be treated equally irrespective of their groups and elected John Carver as their first governor. They together were acknowledged as the "Pilgrims".
The Pilgrims decided to settle in Plymouth which offered a good harbor, resources for cultivation with less aggressive Indians. Unfortunately they were unable to cope up with the winter and were desolated badly. However, the local Indians helped them to learn the tricks of harvesting during the winter season and the ways they can sustain their families during such times of needs.
With their help, the Pilgrims in the following winter harvested enough crops and they celebrated the event with eclat, grand feast and merrymaking where they even invited the generous and friendly Indians.
Regrettably, the third year proved to be a year of bad luck as the corn that they harvested got damaged. The then Governor William Bradford ordered a day of fasting and prayers for the Pilgrims which resulted in heavy rainfall. To celebrate - November 29th of that year was proclaimed as a day of thanksgiving with another feast and merriment. This date is believed to be the real beginning of the present Thanksgiving Day.
The present day of Thanksgiving was initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 later in 1941 the Congress approved it.