Even though Thanksgiving services had been held in Virginia as early as 1607, America's very first Thanksgiving Festival, and the one that we all associate the holiday with, was a three-day feast which began on December 13th, 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The feast gave the Pilgrims, who had much to be thankful for, an opportunity to praise God and to celebrate with their Indian friends after they had reaped a bountiful harvest following a very rough first winter and spring in their new land.
It wasn't until 1789, following a proclamation issued by President George Washington, that America celebrated its first Day of Thanksgiving to God under its new constitution and that the Protestant Episcopal Church, of which President Washington was a member, announced that the first Thursday in November would become its regular day for giving thanks, "unless another day be appointed by the civil authorities."
Most Thanksgiving services and observances still only occurred at the State level until many years later when Mrs. Sarah Joseph Hale, the editor of Godey's Lady's Book, finally found a President who responded to her petitioning for an annual National Thanksgiving Day. For thirty years, Mrs. Hale promoted the idea of a national Thanksgiving Day, contacting one President after another, until President Abraham Lincoln responded in 1863 by setting aside the last Thursday of November as a National Day of Thanksgiving.
Over the next seventy-five years, future Presidents followed Lincoln's precedent by annually declaring a National Thanksgiving Day until Congress permanently established the fourth Thursday of each November as a national holiday in 1941 thus ending the need for an annual proclamation to be made.
Is it any wonder then that Abraham Lincoln is my very favorite President? Who else took the time to set aside one day out of the year when we not only take the time to remember that which we are most thankful for but can eat ourselves silly in the process? It's time to reflect upon the year that has almost passed, to perhaps gather with family and friends and share the bounty of love and friendship, and to maybe just slow down a little bit from life's regular hectic pace. Unless, of course, you happen to work for some heartless retailer who thinks it's necessary to stay open on a formerly "everything's closed" holiday and try to wring every last penny possible out of a struggling economy.
However, that's just my opinion which at long last brings me to the question of this post (I bet you thought I'd forgotten what the title of this post was, didn't ya?!) ...
What are you most thankful for this year?
Just because it's an American holiday that we'll be celebrating next week doesn't mean you need to be an American to answer this question; I don't think you have to have a designated National Day of Thanksgiving in order to be thankful. As a matter of fact, we should be thankful on a regular basis for all that we have in our lives. Sometimes, though, I think we just tend to forget the good as we get so overwhelmed with the bad but for now let's say we put the bad aside and concentrate on the good, shall we??