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The Origins of Thanksgiving

Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a time when friends and families gather to spend time with one another. And whether we travel across the country by plane, by automobile across town or open our homes to be with loved ones, it’s an opportunity to feast, drink and be merry, while sharing love and fellowship…or great stories and football.

But why did Thanksgiving come to be such an important day that we celebrate each year?

Handprint turkeys and multi-colored cornucopias shape most of our childhood memories about Thanksgiving. Elementary school students learn the history of the Pilgrims, who set sail in 1620 on the Mayflower from England to the New World seeking religious freedom from King James I. They landed in what is now Massachusetts, at Plymouth Rock, and encountered a Native American named Squanto, who taught them how to grow crops and showed them the best places to hunt. The respective groups shared a harvest feast in the fall of 1621 to celebrate their friendship. That serves as the origin of Thanksgiving. But, the Pilgrims and Native Americans didn’t continue to meet, so why, 400 years later, do we continue to honor their gathering year after year?

Enter a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale. She was born in New Hampshire in 1788 – over 100 years after the original Thanksgiving and less than 200 miles from the original landing site of Plymouth Rock. Hale grew up celebrating Thanksgiving, which was celebrated on different days throughout New England and was essentially unknown in the southern United States.

She lobbied for more than 17 years to get Thanksgiving recognized as a national holiday to help unify the country during times of extreme tensions between the warring north and south. Her persistent letter-writing and editorials on the subject failed to persuade Presidents Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan. On October 3, 1863, Abraham Lincoln listened to her proposal and declared the fourth Thursday of every November as Thanksgiving in the U.S. She is now hailed as the “Mother of Thanksgiving” and the author of the popular nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Today, Thanksgiving is reserved for gathering with friends and family,  reflecting on all of the things for which we are thankful – and eating some turkey and pumpkin pie, too.

Whether you bake, deep-fry, or barbecue your bird, Mercury Insurance would like to remind you not to leave any food unattended while it’s in an oven, on a stovetop, or over an open flame when prepping your meal. The last thing anyone wants is for an accidental fire to ruin the holiday. If you haven’t reviewed your coverage lately, reach out to a Mercury agent to ensure your home or apartment is adequately insured and you’re taking advantage of all the discounts available – just in time for Black Friday deals!

Enjoy this special time with your loved ones. Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.