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History of the Thanksgiving Holiday

November 2nd, 2023

This month, I want to share with you an excerpt from the History Channel about the history of Thanksgiving, as found on the website

In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers who were seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith as well as other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the “New World.” These travelers would later be commonly known as Pilgrims.

In November 1621, following a brutal winter that claimed the life of approximately half of the original colonists, the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved to be a successful one. Gov. William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies. Now remembered as America’s “first Thanksgiving,” the festival lasted for three days. The Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in 1623 to mark the end of a long drought that had threatened the year’s harvest and prompted Bradford to call for a religious fast.

During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of Thanksgiving a year, and in 1789, George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States; in it, he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; however, each celebrated it on a different day.

In 1827, the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Joseph Hale — author, among countless other things, of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”— launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Finally, after 36 years of editorials and scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians, President Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War and scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November.

Parades like New York City’s Thanksgiving Day parade have become an integral part of the holiday. Beginning in the mid-20th century and perhaps even earlier, the president of the United States has “pardoned” one or two Thanksgiving turkeys each year, sparing the birds from slaughter and sending them to a farm for retirement. Watching football games is also part of the traditional mix of Thanksgiving activities and, without a doubt, one of the most important elements of the holiday festivities is the Thanksgiving meal.

Rich Mountain Electric Cooperative would like to wish all of our members a very happy Thanksgiving, and we hope you get to enjoy and cherish the holiday with family and friends and good food. And please remember to count your blessings, and be thankful.

History of the Thanksgiving Holiday

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