The History Of Thanksgiving Day


Thanksgiving is one of several festivals that cut across cultures, continents and the ages. The root of thanksgiving in America can be traced back to native lands of the colonists who brought with them to the new world a tradition of celebrating major events in their history, whether of providence or of pain. Historians also credit the Native Americans with a tradition of celebrating the fall harvest with much excitement and merrymaking long before the coming of the Europeans.

The Early Events in the History of Thanksgiving

One of the early records of thanksgiving by Americans in the New World was when two British colonists’ ships reached shore in Georges Island in 1607. On December 4, 1619, the Berkeley Hundred held a religious service in Virginia, along the James River, this service was to “the day of our ships’ arrival.” The event was declared there to be a yearly celebration marking the day in holy thanksgiving to God. In 1621, the colonists under the leadership of Governor William Bradford, and the native Wampanoag Indians organized and celebrated an autumn harvest feast following the Pilgrims’ successful first corn harvest.

That feast is thought today to be one of the first official thanksgivings in the colonies. The Virginia settlers were wiped out by the Indians before the arrival of the Pilgrims to the far north near Plymouth Rock. The Pilgrims who are also known as the religious refugees from England, became known as the originators of Thanksgiving thereafter. The idea of thanksgiving as conceived in Virginia was to honor survival in the new world. Thanksgiving was observed as a religious ceremony in the northern colonies for the next one hundred and fifty years.

Also, the local custom of charity associated with thanksgiving is credited to the president, George Washington, who on that day made provision for debtors in jail and attended a church service. Military victories were also celebrated in thanksgiving as it happened in December 18, 1777 when Americans along the eastern seaboard celebrated their victory over the British in October of that year. This was the first officially celebrated holiday until official declaration of November 28, 1782 by Congress as a day of thanksgiving. However, the person credited with the idea of having an official national thanksgiving holiday is Sarah Josepha Hale. She was then an editor of Godey’s lady’s Book - a family magazine.

How Fourth Thursday in November comes to be Thanksgiving Day in USA

The idea of whether to or not fix a permanent day for thanksgiving was debated by congress in 1789. On October 3, 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation and created the first Thanksgiving Day for Thursday the 26th day of November of the following year. In 1795, President George Washington also declared another Thanksgiving. President Washington’s successor, President John Adams also declared Thanksgivings in 1798 and 1799. Other

Presidents of the United States that declared Thanksgivings are James Madison in 1814 & 1815 but not in autumn; President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and all his successors observed the tradition but President Franklin Roosevelt changed the tradition from the last Thursday of November and declared the fourth Thursday in 1939 as the Thanksgiving Day because there were five Thursdays in that year.

The resolution of Congress that fixed the Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday in November was passed in December of 1941 and the bill was signed by President Roosevelt on December 26, 1941 making it a federal legislation for the entire states in the U.S.

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