Tomorrow is Thanksgiving—a great holiday! Maybe our best one! It’s a joyous gathering of family and friends and a sumptuous feast.
We’ll be in Larchmont, N.Y. to celebrate with my niece Lisa and nephew Steve’s superfragilistic Thanksgiving dinner. My former FBI agent nephew is an outstanding chef who enhances the traditional turkey dinner with a juicy tenderloin steak medium rare and an assortment of stuffings and vegetables, as well as a variety of desserts that fill you to a joyous brim.
I’m sure your day will be equally as fulfilling.
But back to my question. We call it Thanksgiving, but it seems more about “receiving” than “giving.”
To shed some light on what the day should be called, let’s look back at how this wonderful holiday got started.
In a 1789 proclamation, President George Washington called on the people of the U.S. to acknowledge God for affording them an opportunity to peaceably establish a form of government that provides safety and happiness by observing a day of thanksgiving. Devoting a day to public “thanks” and prayer, as Washington called it, became a yearly tradition in many communities.
One hundred years later, Thanksgiving became a national holiday. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation in the midst of the civil war in the hope that this day of celebration would help unify the divided nation. Lincoln asked his fellow citizens to observe the last Thursday of November as a day of thanks and praise.
It wasn’t until 1941 that Congress officially designated the fourth Thursday in November as a federal holiday called Thanksgiving.
In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers on a journey to discover the New World. After a treacherous crossing lasting 66 days, they arrived near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed into Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village. Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore and began to harvest with help and an alliance with Native Americans of the area. This alliance, unfortunately, remains the only example of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.
In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a three-day celebratory feast, now remembered as American’s “First Thanksgiving”—although, it is argued that the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term “Thanksgiving” at the time. Historians also argue that the Pilgrims had their first true thanksgiving in 1623, when they gave thanks for rain that ended a drought. In the second half of the 1600s, thanksgivings after the harvest became more common and started to become annual events.
Every year since 1970, a group of Native Americans and their supporters have staged a protest for a Day of Mourning at Plymouth Rock.
All in all, Thanksgiving Day is a time for most people to give thanks for what they have. Parades are held in many cities and towns to highlight the celebration. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the granddaddy of them all. The Mummers Parade in Philadelphia is another big celebration.
Thanksgiving Day in Canada is celebrated on the second Monday of October since April of 1872.
The day after Thanksgiving became Black Friday—a somewhat crazy, wild shopping day where fantastic bargains were advertized to lure in shoppers and kick off the Christmas buying season. Unfortunately, some of the Black Friday hysteria has begun creeping into Thanksgiving itself.
No matter the semantics, whether this great day is a celebration of what we have received or what we give thanks for, it’s a most enjoyable and festive holiday.
Have a great day!