Origins of Thanksgiving and the
History of Thanksgiving (the
A Lesson for English Learners
What are the origins of Thanksgiving? Find out in
this simple English lesson!
Thanksgiving is one of the most beloved holidays
celebrated in the United States. It is a time for families and
friends to gather, share a meal, and give thanks for all the
blessings in their lives. (The word "blessings"
means the good things in your life.)
Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth
Thursday of every November.
The origins of Thanksgiving can be traced back to the early
Pilgrim Fathers came to America from England
The Pilgrim Fathers
(also called the Pilgrims
were a group of English people who left England in the 1600s. They
were looking for a new place to live because they didn't like the
way things were in England.
They sailed to America on a ship called the Mayflower,
and started a new colony there. They wanted to
start a new life in America. The word "pilgrim"
comes from the Latin word peregrinus, meaning "foreign".
A colony is a group of people from the same
country living together in a new place.
The Pilgrim Fathers decided to name their colony Plymouth
because that was the city in England from which their ship (the
Mayflower) had departed
The Mayflower's voyage ( long
journey) took 66 days. On November 21, 1620, the ship arrived in
America with 102 passengers.
The Pilgrims were full of hope for a fresh start.
However, they quickly realized that they were ill-prepared
(not ready) for the challenges ahead
The weather was freezing, and their food supplies were running low.
Many of them became ill.
By the spring of 1621, half of the group had passed away
Despite these difficulties, the Pilgrims persevered
(continued and did not let the problems stop them). With the help of
their Native American
neighbors (the Wampanoag
they learned to grow food.
The Wampanoag is a group of people who originally lived that area of
America. They were skilled at hunting and fishing. They also knew
how to grow corn, beans, and squash.
The Wampanoag chief (leader) made a peace treaty
(agreement) with the Pilgrims that lasted for 4 decades (1621-1641).
The Wampanoag were generous to the Pilgrims,
teaching them important skills so that they could survive in the New
World (newly discovered America, in relation to the Old
World: Asia, Africa, and Europe).
is the food that farmers grow. In the
fall of 1621, the harvest was good, which means the Pilgrims had
plenty of food.
To celebrate their success, they organized a feast
(a big meal) for about 50 Pilgrims.
The Wampanoag tribe heard about the feast and joined them (90
Wampanoag people). The Wampanoag brought five deer (a type of
animal) for the feast.
The feast lasted for three days and included games, songs, and
dancing. This celebration came to be known as the first
Two years later, in 1623, the Pilgrims held their first religious
Thanksgiving Day. After a two-month drought
long time without rain) ended, the Pilgrims gave thanks to God for
sending much-needed rain.
For the next 238 years (from 1624 and 1862), from 1624 to 1862,
Thanksgiving was celebrated primarily in the Northeast United
States. The date varied from year to year and it was not an official
nationwide holiday. Sometimes, it was not celebrated at all.
In 1863, the American Civil War
(a war between the
Northern and Southern US states) was raging
(happening strongly). President
needed a way to unite
(bring together) the country.
At that time, Sarah Josepha Hale,
an important writer, wrote to President Lincoln and suggested that
he create a national holiday for Thanksgiving.
Lincoln agreed and declared Thanksgiving an annual
national holiday. The new date for Thanksgiving was the fourth
Thursday of November, which is still the date it is celebrated
Sarah Josepha Hale (1788–1879), a mother of five and a
widow, was the first female editor of a magazine in the United
States. She used her beautiful writing to promote the creation of
Thanksgiving as an official holiday.
From 1846 till 1863 (17 years) she wrote letters to
leading politicians, urging (strongly encouraging)
them to declare the day of Thanksgiving a national holiday.
She was eventually successful in her mission
and in 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, President Abraham
Lincoln signed into action "A National Day of Thanksgiving and
The word "thanksgiving
" means to give thanks, show
" means to express admiration
A famous quote by Sarah Josepha Hale, the "Mother of
"There is no
impossibility to him who stands prepared to conquer every hazard.
The fearful are the failing."
This means that people who are afraid of failing are the ones who
usually end up failing. If we prepare ourselves for anything that
life throws at us, and dont be afraid of danger, then there is
nothing we cant accomplish.
Today, Thanksgiving Day continues to be celebrated in America as a
way to give thanks and reflect on the good things in life. It is
usually celebrated with a big family meal and activities such as
football, parades, and Thanksgiving plays.
The 16th President of the United
States, who declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863.
To succeed in doing something.
American Civil War:
A war between the Northern and
Southern US states from 1861 to 1865.
Good things that happen to us.
The leader of a tribe.
A war between two sides of the same
A group of people who leave their country
to settle in a new land.
To achieve victory over something.
Depart: To leave a place.
Drought: A long period of time
Failing: Not succeeding.
Fearful: Feeling afraid or scared.
Feast: A large meal, usually for a special
Giving thanks: Showing appreciation and kindness
Gratitude: Showing appreciation and thankfulness.
Harvest: The food that farmers grow.
Hazard: A risk or danger.
Ill-prepared: Not well prepared.
Impossibility: Something that
cannot be done or achieved.
Ahead: In the future.
Mayflower: The ship that transported the Pilgrims
to North America in 1620.
Mission: A goal that someone works hard to achieve.
Native Americans: The people who originally lived
in North America.
New World: the newly discovered America, in
relation to the "Old World", which was Asia, Africa, and Europe.
Passed away: a polite way to say
that someone died.
Plymouth Colony: A colony of
English settlers, founded in 1620 and located in modern-day
Massachusetts (a state in Northeastern United States).
Persevere: To continue an activity or task despite
Pilgrim Fathers (also called the Pilgrims):
The people who first settled in the Plymouth Colony in New England.
Praise: To express admiration for
President: The leader of a country.
Raging: Happening with force.
Reflect: To think deeply or carefully about
Sarah Josepha Hale: An important writer and
editor, credited with the creation of Thanksgiving as an official
Settle: To start living in a new place.
Settlers: People who leave their homes to start
living in a new place.
Thanksgiving: A holiday celebrated annually in the
United States, to give thanks and reflect on lifes blessings.
Treaty: An agreement between two or more people or
Tribe: A very large group of related families, who
live together in a certain area.
Unite: To bring people together.
Urging: Strongly encouraging
someone to do something.
Voyage: A long journey by sea or
One of the tribes who
originally lived in North America.
"Lets give thanks for all of our blessings
Im so thankful to have such good friends in my life."
"Agreed! We should all be thankful for
the hard work that Sarah Josepha Hale
went through to unite
us and make Thanksgiving
an official holiday."
"Indeed. We should also be thankful for the
people, who taught the Pilgrim Fathers
to survive in the New World
"And lets not forget Abraham Lincoln
and his actions to make sure Thanksgiving was celebrated every
"The American Civil War
at the time, but we persevered
, and now we can celebrate
this day every year."
"Lets all join hands and reflect
the true meaning of Thanksgiving."
We hope this lesson has provided you with a deeper
understanding of the origins and history of Thanksgiving.
Get Updates, Special Offers, and English Resources