Early Thanksgiving Observances
Did you know that Thanksgiving originated as a harvest festival? What’s a harvest festival you ask? It is an annual celebration that occurs around the time of the main harvest of a given region. Given the differences in climate & crops around the world, harvest festivals can be found at various times at different places. Harvest festivals typically feature feasting with foods that are drawn for crops that come to maturity around the time of the festival.
In North America, Canada & the US each have their own Thanksgiving celebrations in October & November. In Britain, thanks have been given for successful harvests since pagan times. Harvest festival is traditionally held on the Sunday near or of the Harvest Moon. This is the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox (22 or 23 September).
But officially Thanksgiving is a public holiday celebrated on the 4th Thursday in November in the United States. Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally on & off since 1789, after a proclamation by George Washington. It has been celebrated as a federal holiday every year since 1863, when, during the American Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving & Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.
The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621. This feast lasted three days, & as accounted by attendee Edward Winslow & it was also attended by 90 Native Americans & 53 Pilgrims. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “Thanksgiving”, days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.
Post-Civil War Era
During the second half of the 19th century, Thanksgiving traditions in America varied from region to region. A traditional New England Thanksgiving, for example, consisted of a raffle held on Thanksgiving Eve (in which the prizes were mainly geese or turkeys), a shooting match on Thanksgiving morning (in which turkeys and chickens were used as targets), church services—and then the traditional feast, which consisted of some familiar Thanksgiving staples such as turkey and pumpkin pie, and some not-so-familiar dishes such as pigeon pie. The earliest high school football rivalries took root in the late 19th century in Massachusetts, stemming from games played on Thanksgiving; professional football took root as a Thanksgiving staple during the sport’s genesis in the 1890s, and the tradition of Thanksgiving football both at the high school and professional level continues to this day.
1939 – Present
In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt broke with this tradition. November had five Thursdays that year (instead of the more-common four), Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday as Thanksgiving rather than the fifth one. Although many popular histories state otherwise, he made clear that his plan was to establish the holiday on the next-to-last Thursday in the month instead of the last one. With the country still in the midst of The Great Depression, Roosevelt thought an earlier Thanksgiving would give merchants a longer period to sell goods before Christmas. Increasing profits and spending during this period, Roosevelt hoped, would help bring the country out of the Depression. At the time, advertising goods for Christmas before Thanksgiving was considered inappropriate. Fred Lazarus, Jr., founder of the Federated Department Stores (later Macy’s), is credited with convincing Roosevelt to push Thanksgiving to a week earlier to expand the shopping season, and within two years the change passed through Congress into law.
Parades & Sports
Since 1924, in New York City, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is held annually every Thanksgiving Day from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square, and televised nationally. Also founded in 1924, America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit is one of the largest parades in the country.
American football is an important part of many Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States, a tradition that dates to the earliest era of the sport in the late 19th century. Professional football games are often held on Thanksgiving Day; until recently, these were the only games played during the week apart from Sunday or Monday night. The National Football League has played games on Thanksgiving every year since its creation.
Thanksgiving was founded as a religious observance for all the members of the community to give thanks to God for a common purpose. The tradition of giving thanks to God is continued today in many forms, most notably the attendance of religious services, as well as the saying of a mealtime prayer before Thanksgiving dinner.
And along those thoughts, I would like to personally express my thanks to everyone. I am so thankful for my wonderful clients who all turn into being my friends; thankful for my loving family, relatives and friends, especially my children, all 6 of them who I dearly love, & of course to my one & only, Lance. But I would be remiss if I did not give my greatest thanks to our Lord in Heaven, God who fills my life with so much abundance, grace & love.
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