To one and all
November 23, 2017
An American Thanksgiving dinner.
(MONROE, WA.) -- Today is the day that Americans here in the northwest and across the nation stop to rest, enjoy time with family and friends and give thanks for all that we have and have been given; from warm homes, to food, to freedom, to a loved one returning unharmed from a war zone to hopes for a better tomorrow.
It is a day set aside for family and for remembrance. It’s a day of Pilgrims, Native Americans, turkey and pumpkin pie but if it wasn’t for a persistent female magazine editor, we may not have had this day to celebrate at all.
It was Sarah Josepha Hale who pushed and prodded for a permanent national Thanksgiving Day celebration, even though her efforts were a long way down the road from the first American thanksgiving event.
The first thanksgiving type celebration held in America occurred in 1619. On December fourth of that year, thirty-eight English settlers arrived at the Berkeley Plantation in Virginia.
Part of their original charter stated that they would set aside that day every year and observe it as a day of Thanksgiving. Due to the hardships of those early times and various other factors, the celebration turned out to be a short-lived occurrence.
The next recorded celebration is better known. It was in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621.
The first winter the Pilgrims had in the ‘New World’ was a brutal one (nearly half of those who came over on the Mayflower died). Times did eventually get easier and the following harvest season was so bountiful – thanks to Native Americans who taught them what to plant, when to plant and where to plant - that the Pilgrims decided to hold a feast for celebration and thanksgiving.
This festival, which lasted three days, included the participation of nearly one hundred Native Americans. Governor William Bradford had invited these first Americans to show them appreciation, for helping his colony survive through the harsh weather conditions.
The next ‘thanksgiving’ celebration did not occur until 1623. This year the Pilgrims were again hit with a great natural hardship, a draught. In the hope of bringing much needed rain, they gathered together in a prayer service. The next morning it started to rain and it rained long and hard for the next several days.
When it became apparent that the crops (and the colonists) would survive, Governor Bradford declared that they would hold another day of thanksgiving (the Indians were again invited). As other settlers came to the country, they held their own thanksgiving celebrations, but each celebration was independent of the next.
In 1668 the Plymouth General Court tried to bring some order to the celebration by declaring November 25th to be Thanksgiving. It was a proclamation that only lasted within the colony for five years.
The first nationwide celebration
The first national celebration of Thanksgiving occurred in 1777. This one-time only event occurred at this time also as a way to celebrate the American defeat of the British at Saratoga.
The day worked it’s way on and off into local calendars until 1789 when George Washington made the first Presidential proclamation declaring Thanksgiving a national event. The first Thanksgiving held under this proclamation occurred on November 26 of that year.
When he was named as the Second President of the United States, John Adams, in an effort to be different, declared a day of Thanksgiving but moved it from Thursday to the Wednesday previous. Finding it brought more resistance than he felt it was worth, Adams relented and changed the day back.
When it was Thomas Jefferson’s turn as President, he decided against the idea of Thanksgiving. At this time, many were against the idea of taking a day to honor the hard times of a few pilgrims. And so it went for nearly sixty years, until Sarah Josepha Hale came on the scene.
Sarah Hale took it over the top
A magazine editor, Hale wrote strong editorials in many of the popular magazines of the time. She also wrote letters to anyone and everyone (including Presidents, Governors, Congress members and others) who might help her cause.
She was concerned with her belief that the country needed to set aside a day to give thanks ‘unto him from who all blessings flow’.
Finally she struck the right chord with Abraham Lincoln and in 1863, Hale saw her dream realized as the President declared the last Thursday of November as a national day of Thanksgiving.
For the most part, it is a day that has stayed. In the 1930’s President Roosevelt tried to move the date a bit. He tried to slide it forward by a week to extend the Christmas shopping season.
Facing outrage, he moved the day back with little fanfare. Later during Roosevelt’s administration, in 1941, Congress declared the fourth Thursday in November to be the legal Holiday known as Thanksgiving.
WHAT AMERICANS ARE THANKFUL FOR TODAY
Below are some comments readers of a Georgia newspaper sent in to the paper many years ago explaining why they are thankful on this day.
The comments are representative, we believe, of the thoughts that many of us hold today as we sit down with loved ones to share a meal of thanksgiving.
“…I am thankful for life. I was in a tornado, had two stents put in, had brain surgery twice this year. I lost my job but I am so thankful for family. My family has been so good to me. Without them I don’t know how I would have made it. I love all of them so much — my man friend, sisters, brothers, cousin, children, grandchildren — all of them. And I thank God for all that he has brought me through. The storm has been rough, but I can say I made it.”
“…I am very thankful when my mama, Delores, has an occasional day with less pain from her horrible arthritis. But I’m most thankful for the wonderful man she married 17 years ago…a survivor of colon and lung cancer, he’s not only an angel but also a miracle. He takes wonderful, loving care of “his honey” with a sweet smile, able hands and something delicious cooking in the kitchen every day. On this Thanksgiving and every day, I thank God for Alfred and mama and the stars in their eyes.”
“…I’m thankful for fluffy towels warm from the dryer, peeks of blue sky and sunshine on a dreary day, and Google. For laps to hold babies, afternoon tea and fly swatters. I’m thankful for hot cornbread with fresh butter, catnaps in my rocker and friends who call just to chat. I’m thankful my wrinkles are mostly smile lines. For happy weddings, forgiving traffic cops and packages in the mail. That my husband loves me even on bad hair days. I’m thankful for catch-up days, lazy days, busy days and all the days that have led me to now. I’m thankful for life.”
“…I’m most and eternally grateful for the gift of life. On Aug. 16, I was taken to The Medical Center of Central Georgia in an ambulance, not knowing how sick I was or what was really wrong with me. I was in a coma for 16 days, and by all the reports given to me after waking up, it didn’t look like I would make it. But God’s grace and mercy brought me out. I received excellent care and compassion from doctors and other hospital staff, including physical and occupational therapy. But most importantly, I thank God for my darling husband, who never left my side. He has been my rock. I know that I have been divinely blessed and favored by God.”
And we here at the Sky Valley Chronicle are thankful to all of you for reading our new newspaper, for your kind comments, suggestions and emails overt the years.
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.
A version of this story appeared on the front page of the Chronicle in 2009