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On November 26, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday. Eighty-six years earlier, on November 26, 1777, General George Washington declared a Thanksgiving feast to celebrate victory over the British in the Battle of Saratoga, New York, during the Revolutionary War. Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated every fourth Thursday of November.
 
Thanksgiving is often associated with a feast the “Pilgrims” at Plimouth Plantation, Massachusetts, shared with their Wampanoag neighbors in 1621. In fact, similar feasts of thanksgiving actually date as far back as the first Christian explorers in North America. Spanish conquistadores celebrated days of thanksgiving as early as 1541 in what is today Texas. French settlers in what is today Florida celebrated in 1564. One of the first thanksgivings celebrated between English settlers and Native Americans (the Abnaki) happened on the banks of the Kennebec River in what is today Maine, in 1607.
 
Nearly 250 years later, Lincoln’s proclamation, actually written by Secretary of State William Seward, hoped for divine intervention in the ongoing Civil War, “to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”
associate
Verb

to connect.

bank
Noun

a slope of land adjoining a body of water, or a large elevated area of the sea floor.

celebrate
Verb

to observe or mark an important event with public and private ceremonies or festivities.

Civil War
Noun

(1860-1865) American conflict between the Union (north) and Confederacy (south).

conquistador
Noun

Spanish explorer or conqueror of Latin America in the 16th century.

consistent
Adjective

maintaining a steady, reliable quality.

declare
Verb

to state clearly, in formal terms.

Noun

foods eaten by a specific group of people or other organisms.

divine
Adjective

having to do with a god.

explorer
Noun

person who studies unknown areas.

feast
Verb

to eat large amounts of food, usually to celebrate or honor something.

holiday
Noun

period of celebration or honor.

implore
Verb

to plead or beg.

intervene
Verb

to mediate or modify the outcome of an event.

luxury
Noun

expensive item.

Native American
Noun

person whose ancestors were native inhabitants of North or South America. Native American usually does not include Eskimo or Hawaiian people.

neighbor
Verb

to live or be situated next to.

Pilgrim
Noun

early settler of Plimouth Colony, Massachusetts.

proclamation
Noun

public announcement.

restore
Verb

to renew or bring back to an earlier position or state of health.

Revolutionary War
Noun

(1775-1783) conflict between Great Britain and the colonies that became the United States. Also called the American War of Independence.

seafood
Noun

fish and shellfish consumed by humans.

settler
Noun

person who migrates and establishes a residence in a largely unpopulated area.

tranquil
Adjective

peaceful and calm.

Union
Adjective

having to do with states supporting the United States (north) during the U.S. Civil War.

venison
Noun

meat of a deer, eaten as food.

victory
Noun

success or triumph.

Wampanoag
Noun

people and culture native to what are now the U.S. states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

wound
Noun

injury usually resulting in the breaking of skin.