Thanksgiving



Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Day, is a traditional North American holiday to give thanks, traditionally to God, for the things that one has at the conclusion of the harvest season. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and on the second Monday of October in Canada.

The earliest Thanksgiving events were held in the British Colonies, at present day Berkeley Plantation in Virginia in 1619 and at Plymouth in present day Massachusetts in 1621.

In the United States, Thanksgiving Day, always a Thursday, is part of four or five day long weekend which usually marks a pause in school and college calendars. Many workers (78% in 2007) are given both Thanksgiving and the day after as paid holidays, and others with leave benefits are allowed to take a vacation day. After Thanksgiving Day, the day after is known as the unofficial holiday of Black Friday, the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season. Many retailers open very early (typically 5 A.M.) and offer doorbuster deals and loss leaders to draw people to their stores.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day, and the following Sunday, last day of the long weekend, are typically two of the heaviest annual travel days for passengers airlines, intercity rail and bus services, and highway travel.

Thanksgiving meals are traditionally family events where certain kinds of food are served. As is evidenced by the tremendous level of travel, significant effort is made by family members to gather for the Thanksgiving celebration. Family participation is notably inclusive ranging from the very youngest to the most senior. First and foremost, turkey is the featured item in most Thanksgiving feasts (so much so that Thanksgiving is sometimes facetiously referred to as "Turkey Day"). Stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, corn, turnips, rolls, pecan pie, and pumpkin pie are commonly associated with Thanksgiving dinner, although it was quite probable that many of these culinary items did not feature in the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Often guests bring food items or help with cooking in the kitchen as part of a communal meal.

On December 4, 1619, a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred, comprised of about eight thousand acres (32 km²) on the north bank of the James River near Herring Creek in an area then known as Charles Cittie about 20 miles upstream from Jamestown, where the first permanent settlement of the Colony of Virginia was established on May 14, 1607.

The group's charter required that the day of arrival be observed yearly as a "day of thanksgiving" to God. On that first day, Captain John Woodleaf held the service of thanksgiving. Here is the section of the Charter of Berkeley Hundred which specifies the thanksgiving service:

"Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God."

During the Indian Massacre of 1622, nine of the settlers at Berkeley Hundred were killed, as well as about a third of the entire population of the Virginia Colony. The Berkeley Hundred site and other other outlying locations were abandoned as the colonists withdrew to Jamestown and other more secure points.

After several years, the site became Berkeley Plantation, and was long the traditional home of the Harrison family, one of the First Families of Virginia. In 1634, it became part of the first eight shires of Virginia, as Charles City County, one of the oldest in the United States, and is located along Virginia State Route 5, which runs parallel to the river's northern borders past sites of many of the James River Plantations between the colonial capital city of Williamsburg (now the site of Colonial Williamsburg) and the the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia at Richmond.

Berkeley Plantation continues to be the site of an annual Thanksgiving event to this day. President George W. Bush gave his official Thanksgiving address in 2007 at Berkeley saying "In the four centuries since the founders of Berkeley first knelt on these grounds, our nation has changed in many ways. Our people have prospered, our nation has grown, our Thanksgiving traditions have evolved -- after all, they didn't have football back then. Yet the source of all our blessings remains the same: We give thanks to the Author of Life who granted our forefathers safe passage to this land, who gives every man, woman, and child on the face of the Earth the gift of freedom, and who watches over our nation every day."

The early settlers of Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts were particularly grateful to Squanto, the Native American and former British slave who taught them how to both catch eel and grow corn and also served as their native interpreter. Without Squanto's assistance, the settlers might not have survived in the New World.

The Plymouth settlers (who came to be called "Pilgrims") set apart a holiday immediately after their first harvest in 1621. They held an autumn celebration of food, feasting, and praising God. The Governor of Plymouth invited Grand Sachem Massasoit and the Wampanoag people to join them in the feast. Evidence to support that claim came from diaries of Plymouth. The settlers fed and entertained the Native Americans for three days, at which point some of the Native Americans went into the forest, killed 5 deer, and gave them to the Governor as a gift.

National Thanksgiving Proclamations proclaim thanks for God’s providence in the events of the nation and, as President Washington explained in his Thanksgiving Proclamation, "for the many signal favors of Almighty God" in the lives of the people.

As congress recognized the importance of Thanksgiving observance, President George Washington issued a national Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789. He wrote, "Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country...for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed...and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually...To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best."

In 1789 Washington designated a national thanksgiving holiday for the newly ratified Constitution, specifically so that the people may thank God for "affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness" and for having "been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed... "

The first official Thanksgiving Proclamation made in America was issued by the Continental Congress in 1777. Six national Proclamations of Thanksgiving were issued in the first thirty years after the founding of the United States of America as an independent federation of States. President George Washington issued two, President John Adams issued two, President Thomas Jefferson made none and President James Madison issued two. After 1815 there were no more Thanksgiving Proclamations.

If it weren’t for Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, the popular women’s journal of the 19th century, Thanksgiving Day would not have existed beyond that.

She wrote editorials and lobbied “that the LAST THURSDAY IN NOVEMBER shall be the DAY OF NATIONAL THANKSGIVING for the American people.”

President Lincoln succumbed to her pressure and proclaimed the last Thursday in November a "prayerful day of Thanksgiving."

Since then every U.S. President has always made an official Thanksgiving Proclamation on behalf of the nation.

"I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VI, "Proclamation of Thanksgiving" (October 3, 1863), p. 497.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the date for Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November in 1939 (approved by Congress in 1941).

In Canada, Thanksgiving is a three day weekend (although some provinces observe a four day weekend, Friday–Monday). Traditional Thanksgiving meals prominently feature turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes, though Canada's multicultural heritage has seen some families infuse this traditional meal with elements of their traditional ethnic foods. Many Canadians also consume pumpkin pie after their meal.

As a liturgical festival, the Canadian Thanksgiving corresponds to the European harvest festival, during which churches are adorned with cornucopias, pumpkins, corn, wheat sheaves and other harvest bounty. English and other European harvest hymns are customarily sung on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, along with scriptural lections derived from biblical stories relating to the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot.

The history of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to an English explorer, Martin Frobisher, who had been futilely attempting to find a northern passage to the Orient. He did, however, establish a settlement in Canada. In the year 1578, Frobisher held a formal ceremony in what is now the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, to give thanks for surviving the long journey. This event is widely considered to be the first Canadian Thanksgiving, and the first Thanksgiving celebrated by Europeans in North America. More settlers arrived and continued the ceremonial tradition initiated by Frobisher, who was eventually knighted and had an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean in northern Canada named after him—Frobisher Bay. The innermost point of the inlet of Frobisher Bay is the location of the Nunavut capital, formerly itself called Frobisher Bay, and now called Iqaluit.

It should be noted that the 1578 ceremony was not the first Thanksgiving as defined by First Nations tradition. Long before the time of Martin Frobisher, it was traditional in many First Nations cultures to offer an official giving of thanks during autumnal gatherings. In Haudenosaunee culture, Thanksgiving is a prayer recited to honor "The Three Sisters" (i.e., beans, corn, and squash) during the fall harvest.

In 1957, the Canadian Parliament declared Thanksgiving to be "a Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed," and officially decided that the holiday take place on the second Monday in October.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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