Thanksgiving is arguably one of the biggest holidays of the year. But how many of us know the full history behind this beloved annual celebration?
As it is Thanksgiving week, I thought it would be interesting to educate myself on how this holiday came to be an official part of our annual calendar. Most historians agree that the first Thanksgiving occurred at a celebration feast in 1621 at which the Pilgrims of Plymouth shared the good fortune of their harvest with the Wampanoag people. The peaceful festivities lasted for three days and set the stage for many future celebratory feasts that marked military victories and other noteworthy events.
In 1789, to honor the creation of the new Constitution and the new nation, George Washington issued a proclamation designating November 26th of that year as a “Day of Public Thanksgiving”. He wanted to recognize the emergence of the new nation from the Revolution and called this day of thanksgiving so the people could acknowledge God for affording them “an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Thanksgiving became a yearly tradition in many communities who wanted to give thanks to God for their many blessings, but some later presidents, including Thomas Jefferson, felt that the religious demonstration of piety was not appropriate for a government holiday. This was due to the separation of church and state, therefore no more presidential proclamations were made until the 1860s.
In 1863, President Lincoln made a proclamation marking Thursday, November 26th as Thanksgiving. In this particular instance, he was enumerating the blessings of the American people and giving thanks for emerging successfully from the Battle of Gettysburg. As of that year, Thanksgiving was celebrated on the last Thursday of November.
In 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt brought Thanksgiving forward a week in an effort to boost retail sales during the Great Depression from the last Thursday in November to the second to last Thursday. His plan came to be called Franksgiving and was met with passionate opposition. Eventually, in 1941, Roosevelt and the Congress established Thanksgiving as a United States federal holiday to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, which is how it still stands today.
With all the chaos that goes on in the world, I look upon Thanksgiving not only as a time to give thanks but as a wonderful opportunity to remember the simple pleasures of spending quality time with friends and family. Personally, I will be taking the day to be grateful for this great nation, my wonderful agents, clients, friends and the most loving and giving family I am so blessed with.
I hope all of you will share this day of giving thanks with all those you love.