Thanksgiving, the holiday where we find a reason to gorge ourselves on gargantuan amounts of food is celebrated in different forms across the world. In Canada it is celebrated on the second weekend of October, in England it is the secondary name for the Harvest Festival that is held locally depending upon when the local harvests are. This holiday has a unique and interesting history.
As mentioned England celebrated what was known as a Harvest festival. It was a local celebration that was set by a proclamation of the government during certain points of the year. The holiday came to the American colonies with the settlers. The first Harvest Festival that is associated with Thanksgiving by the Americans was in 1621. The people of Plymouth Rock were setting their homes for the winter. After a successful summer the people stored their food for the long winter months ahead. The governor of the colony then proclaimed that they would give thanks for all of the good things they had, this was the first Harvest Festival.
It wasn’t until President Lincoln that the holiday of Thanksgiving was institutionalized as a national holiday. Prior to this Presidents would make periodic proclamations. President Washington, for example, proclaimed Thanksgiving in 1783 and 1789. President Madison proclaimed a Thanksgiving twice in 1815 neither were in autumn. Most of the Southern United States opposed this holiday. They referred to it as a remnant of “Puritanic Bigotry.” When President Lincoln decided to make it a holiday it was in 1863 and was set to be the last Thursday of November. Roosevelt however, made one change. He moved the day to the second to last Thursday in November. His motivation for this was for the welfare of merchants in the midst of the Great Depression. It was actually considered to be wrong to promote the Christmas holiday prior to Thanksgiving. Most people were not happy about this. Some states ignored the change while others chose to celebrate both. To settle things congress chose to hold the holiday on the 4th Thursday of the month which would mean at times it was the second to last Thursday or the last Thursday at other times.
Turkeys became the main focus of the meal because this type of fowl was the most readily available to the colonists during the winter months. There is some debate as to where the origins of the Turkey pardoning is derived. Many believe that it was a tradition that began with President Harry Truman. However, others think that it began with President Lincoln who pardoned his son’s pet turkey.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that has a rich history. It may be mainly modern but it is often overlooked due to the fact that we focus our time on the mundane tasks. As this holiday states it is for being thankful of what we have physically, emotionally and spiritually.