On Thursday, we will celebrate an American holiday that began in 1621 when Plymouth colonial Gov. William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and prayer after a successful harvest. Edward Wilson, a Pilgrim at Plymouth, described the celebration: “And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

The Pilgrims apparently skipped Thanksgiving the next year, but in 1623 a day of fasting and prayer during a drought was changed to one of thanksgiving because rain came as an answer to the Pilgrims’ prayers. The New England custom of an annual day of thanksgiving began to take hold in the colonies.