“Be good to your neighbor – they know where you live!” The Pilgrims did not have many neighbors, but in the in the fall of 1621 they held a three-day feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest, an event many regard as the nation’s first Thanksgiving. Historians have also recorded ceremonies of thanks among other groups of European settlers in North America, including British colonists in Virginia in 1619. The legacy of thanks and the feast have survived the centuries, as the event became a national holiday in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. Later, President Franklin Roosevelt clarified that Thanksgiving should always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month to encourage earlier holiday shopping, never on the occasional fifth Thursday.
And what would Thanksgiving be without some numbers from our Census Bureau? Wisconsin led the nation in cranberry production with 450 million pounds. North Carolina led in sweet potato production with 1.3 billion pounds and Illinois led pumpkin production with 502 million pounds 1.1 billion. (But California, Pennsylvania and Ohio also provided lots of pumpkins: each state produced at least 100 million pounds.)