Origin of Thanksgiving


Something a little different today as we look toward Thanksgiving tomorrow. I want to explore the origin of Thanksgiving and what it means today.

In 1621, the Mayflower pilgrims organized a feast with Native Americans they befriended. This feast is the first known “Thanksgiving” on record. It wasn’t called Thanksgiving by the pilgrims, however. Thanksgiving didn’t become what we know it today until George Washington proclaimed Thanksgiving a designated day.

While the colonies initially celebrated Thanksgiving on different days, Thanksgiving didn’t became a national holiday until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln scheduled Thanksgiving as the last Thursday in November. In 1939 during the Great Depression, FDR tried to move the holiday up a week in attempt to generate commercial sales, but the move was met with opposition, which resulted in FDR signing a bill declaring Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November. (Ironically, FDR’s hopes for spurring revenue for retail occur on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.)

The Macy’s parade is another central celebration of Thanksgiving that began in 1924. The parade, according to history.com, brings an in-person audience of 2-3 million people while drawing millions of television viewers.

The US president also traditionally “pardons” a turkey. Pardoning a turkey rescues the bird from being killed and allows it to be sent to a farm for “retirement.” This tradition dates back to the middle of the 20th century.

Modern-day Thanksgiving centers around cooking and expressing gratitude with family and friends. Turkey usually is a central meal piece during the holiday. Leading up to the holiday, many places hold food drives and offer complimentary meals for low-income families and the homeless.

So that’s your enlightening history of Thanksgiving. Enjoy eating your birds and remember to give thanks for what you have.

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