Thursday, November 25, 2010
After the first New England Thanksgiving the custom spread throughout the colonies, but each region chose its own date. In 1789 George Washington, the first president of the United States, proclaimed November 26 a day of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving day continued to be celebrated in the United States on different days in different states until Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey's Lady's Book, decided to do something about it. For more than 30 years she wrote letters to the governors and presidents asking them to make Thanksgiving Day a national holiday.
Finally, in 1863, President Lincoln issued a White House proclamation calling on the "whole American people" wherever they lived to unite "with one heart and one voice" in observing a special day of thanksgiving. Setting apart the last Thursday of November for the purpose, the President urged prayers in the churches and in the homes to "implore the interposition of the almighty had to heal the wounds of the nations and to restore it...to full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union." He also states that they express heartfelt thanks for the "blessing of fruitful fields and healthful skies."
In 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt advanced Thanksgiving Day one week. However, since some states used the new date and others the old, it was changed again 2 years later. Thanksgiving Day is now celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.
The first formal celebration of Thanksgiving in North America was held by an English explorer, Martin Frobisher, who attempted to establish an English settlement on Baffin Island, after failing to discover a northern passage to the Orient in 1576. Canada established the second Monday in October as a national holiday, "a day of general thanksgiving," in 1957.
In 1817 New York State adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom. By the middle of the 19th century many other states also celebrated a Thanksgiving Day. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln appointed a national day of thanksgiving. Since then each president has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation, usually designating the fourth Thursday of each November as the holiday.
Lets not forget too in all of the Pilgrim/Indian togetherness around this time of year how the Colonists and then the Americans massacred most of the natives, introduced diseases (sometimes purposefully) to kill off whole villages, and drove the few remaining to reservations to live lives of poverty and desparation, even after the Native Americans were good enough to teach them how to survive and prosper. Happy Thanksgiving.