Since the beginning of this great American holiday we have been traveling to gather and celebrate Thanksgiving. I thought it would be nice to learn a bit of the history of this celebration. How wonderful to celebrate gratitude and being thankful!
Thanksgiving services were held as early as 1607 in Virginia. But the documented first Thanksgiving feast at Plymouth Rock was December 13, 1621. Here the Pilgrims declared a three-day feast. The feast was a celebration thanking God and the Native Americans that kept starvation at bay. This is the Thanksgiving we all celebrated in grade school.
George Washington’s Proclamation
This was new information to me. But this was what got the federal holiday ball rolling. George Washington issued a proclamation on October 3, 1789. His proclamation designated Thursday, November 26 as a national day of thanks. Like the Pilgrims before, this thanks was tied to our freedom. Washington thought the need for this day, “sprung from the Almighty’s care of Americans prior to the Revolution, assistance to them in achieving independence, and help in establishing the constitutional government.”
Sarah Joseph Hale’s influence
It is no surprise to women that a woman was a great influence in establishing this holiday. Sarah Joseph Hale, the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book promoted a Thanksgiving national day for thirty years. A letter she wrote to Abraham Lincoln may have been what prompted Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation.
Hale also gets some credit for the turkey being part of the feast. “In her 1827 novel Northwood, she devoted an entire chapter to a description of a New England Thanksgiving, with a roasted turkey “placed at the head of the table. “
Charles Dickens also gains some credit for his 1843 bloc buster book, A Christmas Carol ! Other reasons cited for using turkey is that they were available on most family farms and that they had no other use (they didn’t produce eggs or milk) besides meat.
Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation
In October of 1863, Lincoln Proclaimed setting aside the last Thursday of November as a “day of thanksgiving and and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”
Lincoln’s eloquent words were penned in the midst of the Civil War. He continued hoping to restore the nation. His words again are based on freedom and are heart wrenching. He wrote “…and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union. “
Thanksgiving is a permanent holiday
October 6, 1941 the House passed a joint resolution declaring the last Thursday in November to be the legal Thanksgiving Day. The Senate, however, amended the resolution establishing the holiday as the fourth Thursday.
There you have it, a bit of Thanksgiving history to mull over as you carve the turkey, say thanks and thank God in gratitude for all your blessings. Let freedom ring!
If you enjoyed this read about the importance of gathering with your family on this important holiday.