Archive for November 26th, 2008

I watched a couple of Charlie Brown Thanksgiving specials last night, and that’s put me in the mood to talk a little about the holiday.  As we probably all know, the Thanksgiving tradition goes all the way back to the Pilgrims, the Mayflower, and Plymouth, Massachusetts.

When the Pilgrims first arrived in late 1620, they barely survived that terrible first winter.  But the coming of spring and Squanto (who taught them much of agriculture) meant the Colony survived.  In 1621, they set aside a day to give thanks to God and to the natives that had helped them.  The tradition carried on in an irregular pattern for the next 160 years, with colonial leaders declaring days of thanksgiving, usually after the harvest, but not on any particular day.

In October of 1789, it was President George Washington that declared the first Thanksgiving holiday in the newly-formed United States of America.  His proclamation read (in part):

“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.”

I think our first President said it well, so we’ll leave it at that.  On November 26, 1789, Thanksgiving was celebrated as a national holiday for the first time.  And on this date in 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt would sign a bill establishing, by law, Thanksgiving as the 4th Thursday of November.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, take some time in the midst of all the eating and the egg-nog and the football to give thanks.  For what (and whom) are you thankful?

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