An American History Lesson on Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks on This Day and Everyday

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Many know the legend of the First Thanksgiving. The post-harvest celebration of food, feasting, and praising God held by the American Pilgrims colonists first occurred in October 1621 and was not called Thanksgiving. It was a combined solemn ceremony consisting of a full day of prayer, worship and thanks to God and a couple days of entertaining the Indians who taught the Pilgrims to catch eel and grow corn, who probably would have perished without their help.

In October 1789, President George Washington declared his support for a day of "public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God."

But it was actually President Abraham Lincoln who permanently established the holiday. He did it partially to help soothe the national mood, which was weary of the Civil War. He declared Thanksgiving again for November 23, 1864. In 1865, his successor, Andrew Johnson, declared a Thanksgiving for December 7, 1865, and presidents traditionally declared a Thanksgiving for every autumn since. (Andrew Johnson was the first to give government employees the day off, making it a legal holiday.)

In 1941, Congress passed a bill, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it, that fixed the date as the fourth Thursday in November. President Roosevelt attempted to move the holiday to the third Thursday in November, but Congress enacted a law to fix the date at the fourth Thursday in November, thus making it an "official" holiday. On November 26, 1941, President Roosevelt signed the bill.

But why only one day a year? Granted, this is a National Holiday. Why not show gratitude for all your blessings everyday?

We strive to do that in our family, though it can be challenging at times when running between work, school, activities, meetings, etc. Through all these hectic doings, we must remember to pause and be thankful for all that we have and all that we offer. We are so blessed!

So, we will start our Thanksgiving day this year celebrating the Eucharist at Mass and giving thanks to God. Then we'll take our side dishes and desserts to my parents for a wonderful feast with family. Thus creating new memories for which we can be grateful.

What are you grateful for? How will you spend your Thanksgiving day?
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Lovely blog.

    I will be going to Church. It is just my mom and dad right now, so we are going to go out to dinner at a really sweet little restaurant that we have been going to for years. The chef is from Switzerland and is really festive. He brings out his accordian and plays songs for us and we are always treated like family.

    3131 days ago
    What a wonderful blog! I am thankful for too many things to list, not least of which is having all my husband, children, and father (along with assorted others) over to feast this evening. emoticon
    3131 days ago
    First off, I'm thankful for your blog on the history and spirit of Thanksgiving. It is well timed, before we all get absorbed by the many activities of the holiday, and well aimed, showing the need to recall our blessings, and to make the practice of thankfulness a part of our daily life. Here's wishing you and yours a wonderful, grace-full Thanksgiving.
    3131 days ago
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