Did you know that no one knows the exact date the first Thanksgiving meal was celebrated on? The best historians could come up with was somewhere in the fall of 1621. So how did Thanksgiving become a national holiday designated on the last Thursday of November? The answers to these questions are deep within the history of United States politics.
George Washington made the first proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1789. The proclamation was not to give thanks to the pilgrims but to give public thanks and prayers for the ability to peacefully establish a form of government for their safety and happiness. George Washington then again made the proclamation in 1795. Then New York officially made Thanksgiving Day as an annual holiday in 1817.
Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to become the national bird but Thomas Jefferson had opposed it. And it is believed that Benjamin Franklin then decided to name the male turkey ‘tom’ to spite Thomas Jefferson’s rejection of his idea. Thomas Jefferson did offer proclamations of Thanksgiving as governor but was hesitant to do so as president as he believed in the separation of church and state.
In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday of November as the day to celebrate Thanksgiving by giving his proclamation to the nation where by he asked for his fellow citizens to give prayer and public thanks. His proclamation was about giving thanks for the bounties which the United States enjoyed as well as population growth but to also give prayer that the civil war will come to an end and bring unity back to the nations in peace and prosperity.
When the United States fell into the great depression, it was upon President Roosevelt’s shoulder to lead a nation through difficult times. In 1939 President Roosevelt restored Thanksgiving Day on the last Thursday of November in an effort to extend the Christmas shopping season to stimulate the economy. In 1941 Congress passed legislation to declare Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday and is to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November every year.
2008 has proven to be an historic year in politics with so many firsts. So as you sit around the dinner table celebrating Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends, just like the Pilgrims before us. Don’t forget to also give thanks to the Presidents and Congress in history for make Thanksgiving Day and national Holiday.
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