One of the most popular stories about Thanksgiving is that it began with the Pilgrims. These people came to America from Europe on a ship called The Mayflower. They landed on Plymouth Rock. These people came to America because they felt the Church of England was unfair to them. The Pilgrims wanted to practice their religion in their own way. In 1621 the Pilgrims celebrated the building of their homes in the New World and their first fall harvest in Massachusetts. They ate corn, vegetables, roasted meat and shellfish, which they had hunted and gathered with their friends the Native Wampanoag people. The Wampanoag people lived in the area for 12,000 years and helped the new settlers survive. Families of both the settlers and Wampanoag people sang, danced and played ball games in celebration. Prayers and thanks may have been given in 1621 but two years later, in 1623, is when the formal Thanksgiving began. At this time the settlers thanked their God for rain after two months of drought. Without this rain, the crops would be ruined and they would face starvation. The peace between the Native Wampanoag and the settlers only lasted for one generation. Nowadays the Wampanoag have a different view of the holiday. They have a memorial for their ancestors honoring the strength of their people.
In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving an official holiday. The fourth Thursday of November is dedicated to giving thanks for blessings in general.