“Happy Thanksgiving everyone!” Here’s hoping you have full tummy and an even fuller Spirit as you share a “Thanksgiving meal” with family and friends and renew connections with the ones you love. We do have a lot to be thankful for in this great country of ours! Last week I gave you the first half of the history of our “Thanksgiving Day” tradition. This weekend I would like to bring us more up-to-date.
Previously, I spoke of the Pilgrims and their tradition, of which Thanksgiving Day is famous for, yet its development only slowly continued on. During the Revolutionary War and our struggle for nationhood, various Thanksgiving Days were proclaimed several times a year, depending on what was going on in each colony. The first National Proclamation of Thanksgiving was presented as George Washington proclaimed a day to give thanks in December of 1777 honoring the defeat of the British and thanking the “Almighty God for his abundant blessings and mercy.” As our Constitution was being drafted, President Washington was really the first one who proclaimed the first national “Day of Thanksgiving and the National Day of Prayer” to be set on November 26, 1789. George Washington proclaimed another day in 1785 with John Adams, and James Madison all proclaiming Days of Thanksgiving in the years 1798, 1799, 1812, 1814 following the War of 1812. As yet, it seems there was still not an annual tradition. It wasn’t until President Abraham Lincoln appeared on the scene that he declared an annual event of “Thanksgiving Day” to be set on the final Thursday beginning in November of 1863 with the remark to-the-effect that ‘no human being could have planned or arranged for the bounty and great events that have created this great nation, except for the Almighty Hand of God.’ Since 1863 Thanksgiving has been an annual part of our American Tradition!
In the early Post Civil War era, Thanksgiving Day was observed in various ways with religious services, shooting events for wild geese and turkeys, dinners with pumpkin pie and even pigeons. Some regions had “ragamuffin parades” which consisted of children dressed in costumes with mismatched clothes. In 1939, it was noted that some Novembers have 5 Thursdays and not 4, President Roosevelt broke tradition moving “Thanksgiving Day” a week earlier in order extend the holiday shopping season and help our nation out of the 1930s Depression. This, of course met with some resistance, but eventually the 4th Thursday of November was settled upon by Congress beginning in 1941. Thus we have the version of Thanksgiving Day we have today which includes all the traditional foods of turkey, sweet potatoes (Not sure how that stayed!) dressing, pumpkin pie, cranberries, etc. Added to this are our Thanksgiving Day parades, college football and the like. With regard to “pardoning a turkey,” it was President John F. Kennedy who pardoned the first and since then, one lucky turkey gets to keep its feathers!
On a final note, I believe to “Give Thanks” is one of the highest forms of God’s praise. It is essentially a movement of the Spirit of God within us, which means it is really a part of our DNA! To give thanks helps us be grateful, fills us with joy, and affirms our relationship with God as creature and not Creator! It helps us look past our present pains and difficulties and envision a new and better world to come! Personally, I am not sure how anyone can give genuine thanks without some understanding and faith in God, that there is something much greater than ourselves out there. That’s part of another discussion. For now, let’s just all be thankful and feel that we have been truly blessed by God in so many ways. May the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit continue to guide and anoint us! Words to live by: “Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but rather a manner of traveling.”