As children we are all taught about the tradition of Thanksgiving and the story of the first Thanksgiving. We learned the story of the struggling Pilgrims that hosted a large harvest feast with a Native American tribe, the Wampanoag, which we now know as Thanksgiving. However, that was not the start of the tradition of Thanksgiving.
There was of course a feast but it was simply a gathering that lasted three days and was not considered a holiday, nor meant to become one. It also resembled a traditional English
Harvest Festival rather than an actual Thanksgiving. At the time a Thanksgiving was declared after a hardship was overcome and was a very religious celebration that was devoted to humbly thanking God. The modern Thanksgiving is, in general, a combination of these two separate celebrations.
After this initial feast, there were random Thanksgiving celebrations and it was not until October 1777 that all 13 colonies celebrated a Thanksgiving. Over a decade later George Washington declared the first national Thanksgiving to be recognized on Thursday, November 26th. This proclamation was still not enough to make Thanksgiving a nationally recognized holiday. It took another 74 years and the work of one woman to make that happen.
Known as the Mother of Thanksgiving, Sarah Josepha Hale was the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book and author of the nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb. She spent 40 years advocating for a national Thanksgiving and as the country began to divide in the 1860’s Abraham Lincoln saw it as a way to reunite the North and the South. Lincoln used Washington’s date and declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. The tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving annually and on the last Thursday of November continued, until President Franklin Roosevelt moved it back one week in 1939. He did this to give people more time to do Christmas shopping, but caused a bit of an uproar in doing so, which resulted in several years with 2 Thanksgivings. Congress finally cleared up the matter in 1941, making Thanksgiving every fourth Thursday in November.
Now, we have all settled on the same date for Thanksgiving and have even created other events that surround it like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. By doing this we have in essence recreated the original three days of celebration that Thanksgiving is derived from.
So as you begin to plan for you Thanksgiving celebrations, be sure to check back here for some tips and fun facts.