Days of thanksgiving were first introduced in England during the reign of Henry VIII. In 1536, there were 95 Church holidays consolidated to twenty-seven, all replaced by days of fasting during droughts in 1611, floods in 1613 and plagues in 1604 and 1622, or days of thanksgiving following the victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588, deliverance of Queen Anne in 1705 and following the failure of the Gunpowder Plot in 1606.
Thanksgiving Day in the United States and Canada is rooted in and then developed from these English Reformation traditions along with pre-existing harvest festivals.
In 1619, English settlers in Charles City County, Virginia ended a religious ceremony with “the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned … in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”
In 1621, Pilgrims and Puritans emigrating from England around brought their days of fasting and days of thanksgiving to Plymouth, Massachusetts, celebrating a good harvest with Native Americans who’d help them survive the previous harsh winter.
The custom of Thanksgiving today is a time for family to gather, be thankful and to celebrate with a feast of seasonal food from the north east. Turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, pumpkin and root vegetables are typically enjoyed.
It’s a long-standing and wonderfully intimate tradition.