Exploring the real history of Thanksgiving and why it resonates differently this year

Fox Nation revisits the story of a uniquely American tradition

When most Americans think of the first Thanksgiving, many likely think of the Mayflower Pilgrims gathering outdoors with Native Americans for a grand feast of turkey, bread, and colorful fall vegetables.

But as the country gears up for an unfamiliar holiday season amid a global pandemic, the real history behind this uniquely American tradition resonates differently this year. 

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Fox Nation's new Thanksgiving special, "A Very Nation Thanksgiving" explores the little known hardships and hurdles faced by the Pilgrims on their passage to the New World, and focuses on their spirit of gratitude, strength, and perseverance despite the devastating losses they sustained. 

In September 1620, the Mayflower set out from Plymouth, England with 102 passengers aboard. Some were fleeing religious persecution, others were seeking prosperity. All were looking for the chance to build a new life. Two months later, the ship made an initial landing on Cape Cod, Mass., before establishing Plymouth Colony.

Within a year, nearly half of the new arrivals had died. 

The Mayflower II, a replica of the original ship that brought the Pilgrims to Massachusetts in 1620, is seen in Plymouth, Mass., in 2014.

The Mayflower II, a replica of the original ship that brought the Pilgrims to Massachusetts in 1620, is seen in Plymouth, Mass., in 2014. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)

"It was a terribly dark and cold winter, very icy outside, and many of the people on the ship were sick," Lea Filson, a Mayflower descendent, told Fox News. "By the end of that winter, there were only 51 of them left."

What most consider the first Thanksgiving to have been celebrated in October 1621 after the Pilgrims' first successful corn harvest in the New World -- made possible by the help of the Wampanoags, who taught the settlers to cultivate corn and master other survival skills.

"Wampanoags did indeed help and this was the first time that actual families landed in the New World with little children and the Wampanoags were very helpful," Filson explained. " They helped to teach the Pilgrims how to plant and create a good harvest and eventually a peace alliance was agreed to by both sides that they kept for a good half-century."

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The Fox Nation special, hosted by "Fox & Friends" co-host Brian Kilmeade, honors the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing at Plymouth Rock. The program features insight from Filson, Plimoth Patuxet Museums Chief Historian Richard Pickering and others as they take viewers through the history of the First Thanksgiving, the establishment of the holiday by U.S. presidents, and the evolution of American traditions today.

To watch "A Very Nation Thanksgiving" and for more exclusive holiday content, visit Fox Nation and join today. 

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