I Feel Proud of this
The idea of a Harvest Feast goes back to ancient times. The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 at the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts. After the American Revolution President George Washington proclaimed November 26, 1789, Thanksgiving Day to honor the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and later in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln named the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. It did not become an official national holiday until 1941 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt when Congress passed a special resolution declaring that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.
Today Thanksgiving has become a special family holiday when people come home to participate in the traditional Thanksgiving Day Dinner. It is a day for giving thanks for all our blessings and an excellent opportunity to share our bounty with others. Food donations are often stored up at this time for the needy and volunteers prepare holiday dinners for the homeless and less fortunate among us. Buy a few extra cans of food to donate to your local food bank when you do your grocery shopping this year. Another way to share the spirit of the holiday is to invite a member of the Armed Forces who may be unable to go home and spend time with his or her family. Or if there is not a military base near your community you might think about paying a visit to a nursing home where there may be a few elderly patients without family nearby and share some of your time visiting these lonely folks. Holidays can be especially difficult for those without family members nearby.
Thanksgiving is also a time to remember the debt we owe native American Indians because without their unique knowledge of the environment and willingness to help those early European settlers things may have turned out many different. Teach children to respect the Indian traditions and discover what were some of the native American foodstuffs available to those early settlers. Include some of them in your own Thanksgiving dinner many of the traditional dishes we think of already represent some of them such as cranberries. Find out which others can be attributed to the Indians.
Thanksgiving Day (some more facts)
Celebrating a Harvest of Tradition
The fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving Day, ushers in the "official" start of the Christmas season in our modern day world. Marked with parades, huge family meals featuring turkey, gravy, and all the trimmings, day-long displays of athletic prowess—or not, as sometimes happens—with wall-to-wall football, which does make one question whether the turkey or the pigskin is the featured course of the day, and the appearance of Santa throughout malls and stores, the festival has become a commercial event in which the origins and meaning of the day are almost totally obscured. The modern day Thanksgiving is a far different occasion than the original
It is widely assumed that the first Thanksgiving occurred in 1621 and was celebrated by the Pilgrims, English settlers, and local Native Americans. It will come as a surprise to many that
1) the meal in 1621 was not the first Thanksgiving in North America and, in fact, not even a thanksgiving feast, 2) turkey was probably not served and 3) there were no Pilgrims!
The Native American people had celebrated the harvest, in one form or another, for several thousands of years prior to European colonization. The first documented "thanksgiving" observance actually occurred in 1578. An English adventurer, Martin Frobisher, held a formal ceremony in what is now known as New Foundland to give thanks for having survived the long ocean journey. In addition to the settlement in Canada, the Spanish, French, and the Dutch all had settlements in North America and would have carried the old observances marking successful harvests to their new homes as well. It is not surprising that the early arrivals to the Plymouth Colony would also have had their rituals. In point of fact, the new arrivals did not know how to farm and it was the Native Americans who, as established farmers, taught the ways of planting and harvest
The First Thanksgiving Day
If the event in 1621 wasn't a Thanksgiving celebration then the question arises: What was it?
A large celebration was held to which important members of the Native American community were invited, and which was, in all likelihood, a secular celebration of the harvest—certainly not a "day of thanksgiving," as would have been understood by these colonists. In their faith, a day of thanksgiving would have marked the end of a period of fasting and prayer.
The huge celebration, which has been described in historical records, certainly did not fit this mold. That this clearly was a singular event is apparent in that there is no record that it ever was repeated.
The first real Calvinist Thanksgiving followed the ending of a drought in the summer of 1623. In the manner of their faith, these settlers spent the time in religious ceremony to give thanks rather than at a fully laden feast. Nevertheless, this celebration has become the model for our modern day holiday.
Thanksgiving, as we know it today, has come a long way from the Pilgrim's harvest festival in 1621. It is an event that seems, as each year goes by, to reinvent itself and to expand its meaning to larger vistas. Maybe this is the real significance of the occasion; for as we continue to change and grow as a people, there are an increasing number of things for which we can be thankful.