It’s a truly American Holiday; not that only Americans are thankful. But with a few exceptions it is an annual holiday only in the USofA.
Virginia claims the first Thanksgiving; they hold fast to the tradition and stick by the narrative. They claim their celebration was held on December 4, 1619, and it may well have been, but it was celebration of Thanksgiving in a religious sense. They even made a proclamation;
“We ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacion in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God.”
Prayer may have been on the menu, but a feast of venison, cranberries, and corn such as the Pilgrims of Massachusetts would have a few years later were not.
There was no pumpkin pie, turkey, or mashed potatoes on the menu that day in Massachusetts. Potatoes had not been introduced to the region, turkeys were deemed foul fowl, and there was no wheat for flour to make a pie.
What we deem the first Thanksgiving and what we learned in school was the three day festival of Thanksgiving held in the Bay State, er colony of Massachusetts.
The celebration was in honor of the first harvest the folks had, and supposedly, they shared their good fortune with the indigenous folks nearby.
Maybe, maybe not. I wasn’t there.
This is the Thanksgiving from which we get our lore and to which we trace our roots as a thankful nation. It was held at Plymouth Plantation, and there was a feast.
The celebration consisted of three days of food, hunting, games, and fun in general.
Squanto, a Patuxet Indian who had been captured by Virginian, John Smith in the Indian slave trade and then escaped or was released (no one is sure) and somehow wound UP in Newfoundland, made his way to New England and taught the Pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn.
No matter what the details, it was “big doins” and you know how we like to hold on to our traditions.
The First President to declare a day of National Thanksgiving was The First President, George Washington. John Adams and James Madison would follow suit, but neither of those days were to celebrate harvest, they were celebrations of freedom, victory, and the American nation.
President Lincoln declared a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1863 on the last Thursday of November in the midst of the Civil War.
They celebrated what we do not know, but can only imagine survival was on the list. Soldiers stopping to give thanks when they were never sure if a bullet was headed their way is a sobering and humbling thought.
That day stuck for a while until the Depression when FDR changed it to the 3rd Thursday in November to help retailers extend the Christmas shopping season.
The change was met with outrage by most. Some of his detractors called it “Franksgiving.”
A little later FDR issued a proclamation declaring the 4th Thursday as Thanksgiving forever. Congress not wanting to cede power passed a joint resolution on October 6, 1941 declaring the last Thursday of November as the holiday beginning in 1942.
But in December of that same year, the Senate came back and passed an amendment to the resolution that required the holiday to be celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November. Subtle difference, but impactful nonetheless.
The amendment passed the House, the President signed the bill and voila! Now you have a National holiday when all government offices are closed.
Some states ignored the 4th Thursday rule and continued with the last Thursday. Texas was the last holdout, acquiescing in 1956.
Hey, don’t mess with Texas, right?
Nowadays, its a day when we reflect on the things with which we been blessed over the year, eat too much, watch college football, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
And of course, start Christmas shopping!
This year, I’m thankful for much and could take UP pages with the blessings I’ve received.
But I’ll leave it at this.
I’m thankful for all of you who take time from your busy days to read my ramblings and ravings and I’m thankful that you chime in from time to time.