Thanksgiving Time Line:
1621 - The Harvest Feast, a secular celebration, occurs between Sept. 21 and Nov. 11. It includes games and recreation as well as feasting with Wampanoag neighbors.
In December, Edward Winslow writes to a friend about the New England bounty, saying "These things I thought good to let you understand... that you might on our behalfe give God thankes who hath delt so favourably with us."
1622 - Winslow's letter is printed in a pamphlet known today as "Mourt's Relation." The account is soon forgotten. In the mid-1600s, Thanksgiving as a religious holiday - full of prayer and humilation, not recreation, becomes a regular event, proclaimed by each of the Colonies in autumn.
1700s - The dogmatic Puritan view of Thanksgiving as a holy day starts to lose its civil and religious importance. The more-cosmopolitan Yankee stresses emotional and family significance. The tradition spreads to other parts of the nation.
Interest in Pilgrims as part of history starts to grow right before the American Revolution. The Old Colony Club in Plymouth institutes an annual speech and dinner in December - Forefathers' Day - to mark the Pilgrims' landing. It is celebrated in Plymouth, Boston, and New York.
1777 - The Continental Congress proclaims the first national Thanksgiving, dubbing it a "solemn" occasion.
Early 1800s - Even though Presidents Washington, Adams, and Monroe proclaim national Thanksgivings, the custom falls away.
Then, individual states pick up and install their own observances.
1820 - The Winslow text is discovered in Philadelphia.
1827 - Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey's Lady's Book, begins a campaign of editorials and letters to reinstate Thanksgiving as a national holiday.
1841 - Antiquarian Alexander Young publishes "Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers," which includes the Winslow text. Mr. Young declares it the "First Thanksgiving."
Mid-1800s - Almost all states and territories celebrate regional Thanksgivings. Celebration of Forefathers' Day fades. Popular thought of Pilgrims shifts emphasis from the "first landing" to the First Feast.
1863 - President Lincoln proclaims two national Thanksgivings, one on Aug. 6 (victory at Gettysburg) and another for the last Tuesday in November of that year. Thanksgiving as a national holiday is still not proclaimed as a fixed annual holiday. It evolves to become the last Thursday in November.
1939 - Franklin D. Roosevelt moves the date back to allow for a longer holiday shopping season. The move stirs up controversy.
1941 - Congress establishes Thanksgiving as a national holiday as the fourth Thursday in November.
- From information provided by historians at Plimoth Plantation.