Here in the United States of America, what we consider as the “TRADITIONAL” Thanksgiving holiday has actually had many different interpretations throughout the years. Here are a couple of interesting tidbits:
The American concept of Thanksgiving developed in the colonies of New England but its roots can be traced back to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. According to an interesting article found on the History Channel’s website, Thanksgiving actually falls under the category of festivals that span cultures, continents and millennia.
Fall Harvest Feasting
In ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest. Likewise, our Thanksgiving holiday also resembles the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot.
By the same token, historians have also noted that Native Americans had a rich tradition of commemorating the fall harvest with feasting and merry making long before Europeans set foot on their shores.
In fact, Linda Coombs the former associate director of the Wampanoag Indian Program at Plimoth Plantation says, “Every time anybody went hunting or fishing or picked a plant, they would offer a prayer or acknowledgment.” “It’s an ongoing thing” So you see, for Native Americans, giving thanks was a part of their daily life.
National Holiday Dates
During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year. In 1789 President of the United States, George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government. He called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
Not to mention two other Presidential successors; John Adams and James Madison also designated days of thanks during their presidencies.
Additional Annual Holiday Dates
1817 brought New York as the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday. Each state celebrated on a different day.
However, it’s interesting to note that the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition.
Mother of Thanksgiving
1827 brings us writer Sarah Josepha Hale, author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians, earning the nickname of “the Mother of Thanksgiving”.
Needless to say, she lobbied vigorously for President Abraham Lincoln to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday.
1863 led President Abe Lincoln to finally heed Sarah’s requests. At the height of the Civil War, Mr. Lincoln administered a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”
By the same token, President Lincoln scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November and it has been celebrated on that day every year until 1939.
We Aren’t Done Yet ….
1939 ushered President Franklin D. Roosevelt to move the holiday UP a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan known as Franksgiving was met with passionate opposition!
As a result, in 1941 he reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.
Historically Thanksgiving Has Been Seen As Powerful and Inspiring
So you can see throughout the years, the American Thanksgiving holiday has been an inspiring and powerful symbol of freedom, self-determination and a great show of appreciation.
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Remember those who have recently lost loved ones. Visit them or invite them to participate in your holiday celebrations. By doing this you can help inspire and set a good example for our future generations.
On the other hand …. Don’t forget to support our troops overseas that cannot be with their families on this particular holiday.
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