Harvest Home or Thanksgiving?

Published 10/17 2012 02:04PM

Updated 10/17 2012 02:08PM

In a letter from "E.W." (Edward Winslow) to a friend in England, he says: "And God be praised, we had a good increase.... Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling that so we might after a special manner rejoice together...." Winslow continues, "These things I thought good to let you understand... that you might on our behalf give God thanks who hath dealt so favourably with us."

In 1622, without his approval, Winslow's letter was printed in a pamphlet that historians commonly call Mourt's Relation. This published description of the First Thanksgiving was lost during the Colonial period. It was rediscovered in Philadelphia around 1820. Antiquarian Alexander Young included the entire text in his Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers (1841). Reverend Young saw a similarity between his contemporary American Thanksgiving and the 1621 Harvest Feast. In the footnotes that accompanied Winslow's letter, Young writes, "This was the first Thanksgiving, the harvest festival of New England. On this occasion they no doubt feasted on the wild turkey as well as venison."

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