The Pilgrims held the first Thanksgiving festival at Plymouth. Massachusetts, in October of 1621. They had arrived there from England the year before on the ship Mayflower. The harsh winter, sickness, and hunger caused the death of over half of the original 100 settlers in their first year there.
By the fall of 1621 their lives had improved greatly. The seeds planted earlier in the year had produced a harvest that allowed the settlers to increase their meagre food ration, thereby improving their health. Houses were constructed, promising adequate shelter for the upcoming winter. A long-lasting peace treaty was arranged between Massasoit, head chief of the Wampanoag Indians, and the new settlers, allowing the settlers to hunt for food in the surrounding woods in safety.
Because of their good fortune, the Pilgrims decreed a holiday on which all might, “after a more special manner, rejoice together”.