Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in America, a day to celebrate, to enjoy, to partake, and most of all, to be grateful for what we have and to be generous to those less fortunate.
The concept of a “Thanksgiving Day” has its roots in ancient religious and cultural celebrations of the autumn harvest. In North America, Thanksgiving was celebrated for more than two centuries by individual colonies and states before President Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863 and fixed the November date of observance. The first American President, George Washington, issued a Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789, but the custom was observed only sporadically thereafter by his successors until Lincoln acted to formalize the event as a federal holiday in the midst of the Civil War, hoping the day of celebration would help ease the suffering brought on by brutal internecine conflict and salve the nation’s wounds.
One of the best known of the early Thanksgiving gatherings was held in October 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, to celebrate the Pilgrims’ first successful harvest in the New World. The three-day feast was attended by 53 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag who were welcomed because their earlier gifts of food had helped the English settlers survive their first harsh winter in New England. That First Thanksgiving featured an abundance of food from an ample harvest, including wild turkey, duck, goose, oysters, lobster, eel and fish with sides of cooked pumpkin and cranberries, as well as venison brought as a gift by the native Americans. In the centuries that followed, turkey has become the centerpiece of the feast, along with other additions including pies, cakes and other desserts, none of which were present in the early years.
More recent additions to the holiday include parades with marching bands, performers and very elaborate floats at cities and towns across the country. In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the fourth Thursday in November as the official date, and a few decades later President John Kennedy introduced the “pardoning” of the turkey, which was eventually formalized by President George H. W. Bush in 1989.
Today, Thanksgiving remains a favorite and much beloved American holiday, and has been enhanced in spirit and deed by those who volunteer with food drives and hosting free dinners for those less fortunate among us.
Happy Thanksgiving to all, from Stephen Hofer, Amanda Applegate and the whole team here at Aerlex Law Group.