Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Thanksgiving is an annual holiday at the end of the harvest season, traditionally held to give thanks to God for all that we have been blessed with. In the US it is traditionally celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.

Back in the 1600s the Pilgrims were very thankful for a Native American named Squanto who taught them to catch ells and harvest corn. Had it not been for Squanto, the Pilgrims probably would not have survived.

During the 18th century individual colonies traditionally observed days of thanksgiving each year as a day set aside, not for feasting as we do today, but for prayer and fasting.

October 3, 1879 George Washington made the following national proclamation, making Thanksgiving a national holiday: “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee requested me to “recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government with their safety and happiness.”

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that Thanksgiving would be the second to the last Thursday of November rather than the last. With the country still in the throws of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt believed this would be of benefit to the merchants for selling their Christmas goods. It was his hope that with increased profits and spending during this time would pull the country out of the Depression. At that time, it was considered inappropriate for advertising Christmas goods until after Thanksgiving. Roosevelt’s proclamation was not mandatory, and the country was divided with 23 states going along with the President, 22 of the states did not. Texas could not decide which week to celebrate, so they declared both weeks as government holidays. In 1941 the Congress made the decision to celebrate the holiday the fourth Thursday of November. This served as a compromise as sometimes the fourth Thursday is the last Thursday of November, sometimes it is the next to last. Roosevelt signed the bill into law on November 26, 1941.

Since around 1947 there has been a tradition set by the National Turkey Federation to present the President with a live turkey and two fully dressed. The live turkey receives a Presidential pardon, and lives out its remaining days on a peaceful farm. There are some who believe this is a tradition begun by Harry Truman in 1947, others believe it dates back to Abraham Lincoln pardoning his son’s pet turkey.

Around 2003 they began pardoning two turkeys, and the public has been invited to vote on names for them. In 2003 it was Stars and Stripes that were pardoned. In 2004 it was Biscuit and Gravy. 2005 saw the pardoning of Marshmallow and Yam and 2006 saved Flyer and Fryer. Since 2005 the turkeys are flown first class to live out the remainder of their days in Disneyland’s Frontierland Ranch.

Today, family and friends gather for the traditional Thanksgiving feast of such delicacies as turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, fall vegetables and pumpkin pie. It is a day known for festive parades such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade starting from Manhattan’s upper west side and traveling to Herald’s Square. This is an icon of the Holiday season officially beginning as the parade ends with the arrival of Santa Claus on the last float. The Christmas shopping season officially begins the day after Thanksgiving, called Black Friday.

American football also plays a large role in the traditions of Thanksgiving. Traditionally these are the only games played outside of the weekend or Monday night. Many high school and college rivalry games are played at this time as well as professional league games.

Let's take this special time to think back and be thankful for all the blessings we have received throughout the year, the amazing feast we are sitting down to, and look forward to an incredible year ahead. It's a time to think of those less fortunate than us and to think and put into action ways to help our fellow man. It's a time to remember all those fighting in the name of freedom, away from their loved ones, and to be thankful for the blessings they are bestowing upon us. It's the time to really let loved ones and friends know how much they are appreciated and cherished in our lives.


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