Monday, November 12, 2018

Thanksgiving - a history and a time to reflect by Kaye Spencer #thanksgiving #westernfictioneers

The Legends of America website and the article "The American Tradition of Thanksgiving", compiled and edited by Dave Alexander, 2017, offers a nice explanation of where the American Thanksgiving 'idea' began and how it evolved into the celebration as we know it today. I have condensed the information and put it into bulleted format. (

Events worth noting...

  • Spanish explorer, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado held a Thanksgiving celebration in Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle in May of 1541.
  • A Thanksgiving get-together of French colonists occurred in Florida in June of 1564.
  • English settlers in Maine held a harvest feast in August of 1607.
  • Jamestown colonists celebrated the arrival of desperately needed food supplies in the spring of 1610.
  • Plymouth Pilgrims had a three-day feast in October of 1621.
  • In 1777, commander-in-chief George Washington designated December 18th as a day of "Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise".
  • This led to the Continental Congress' recommendation that all 13 colonies observe a day of thanksgiving.
  • In October 1789, the now President Washington, proclaimed November 26th as a day of national thanksgiving and prayer. It didn't catch on for a variety of political and social reasons.
  • In 1827, a woman named Sarah Hale (editor of Godey's Lady's Book), began writing essays that turned into a concerted letter-writing campaign in 1846 to establish the last Thursday in November as National Thanksgiving Day.
  • In 1863, her persistence paid off when a letter she sent to President Abraham Lincoln swayed him to set the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.

  • painted by James Reid Lambdin (1807-1889), Sarah Hale portrait, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons


    • President Andrew Johnson changed Thanksgiving Day to the first Thursday in December.
    • President Ulysses S. Grant went with the third Thursday in December.
    • The Presidents who came after Grant embraced the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day...
    until 1939.

    • This is when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (with pressure from the National Retail Dry Goods Association) declared November 23rd as Thanksgiving Day. The motive was to extend the Christmas shopping season by an extra week.
    • This wasn't a popular decision. In fact,

      "November 23rd was] ...only followed by twenty three states. Twenty three others celebrated on November 30, and Texas and Colorado declared both Thursdays as holidays. This caused mass confusion from football schedules, to families not knowing when to have their holiday meals, or even sure when to start their Christmas shopping."
    • Two years later, Congress and President Roosevelt would get this mess straightened out and the fourth Thursday in November officially became Thanksgiving Day. This took effect in 1942 and has remained as the American Thanksgiving Day ever since.
    Personally, Thanksgiving occurs in what I call my 'thankful season." September through February are the months during which I recharge my inner batteries. I reassess what lies behind me. I look to the future in anticipation of experiences and discoveries yet to come as I travel my life's journey.
    photo by algilas courtesy
    During this time of year, the reclusive loner in me sheds her March through August "Get off my lawn!" growliness and embraces the joy and wonder of autumn colors, crisp morning air, cooler days becoming winter cold with the shorter nights, the sights and songs of Canadian Geese and Sandhill Cranes flying to wherever it is they'll spend the winter, smaller migrating birds stopping at my birdfeeder, foxes (and lamentably, skunks) coming in to help themselves to the food I keep out for feral cats, clear starry skies, and snow, prairie snow.

    For me, the autumnal weeks of Halloween and Thanksgiving are heralds to the holiday spirit that arrives with the Christmas season. Then, winter sets in, and I'm at my physical and mental best during these darkest days of the year.

    I think of this time of year as an extended thankful season, not just a day here and there for self-reflection and appreciation for what I have in my life. So, with that, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are and however you celebrate.

    On a side note: I have experienced an ongoing struggle for several weeks with commenting and responding to comments on Blogger. If I am unable to respond to your comment, I will come back to this article and add comments in this area. Please check back, because I do read and respond to every comment, as I appreciate the time and interest you've taken to write a comment.

    Until next time,

    Kaye Spencer
    writing through history one romance upon a time

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    1. I have to say, Thanksgiving is my favorite of holidays as I have aged. There is always so much to be thankful for, and it adds up years after year. Here's to family, friends and beautiful lives. Doris

    2. I'm fond of Thanksgiving, also. It has a holiday spirit without the presents. :-) Even during those years when my ship of life didn't sail on smooth waters, I looked forward to Thanksgiving.

    3. I love Thanksgiving (which we celebrate the second Monday of October, so really early this year). I' grateful for all our blessings and love when as many of my children can come home and share this special time together. As always, you post interesting articles, Kaye.

      1. Elizabeth,

        I'm not a socializer, particularly in large groups, so some Thanksgiving get-togethers are more challenging than others for me. I really enjoy the smaller gatherings with close family and a few friends. Still, I'm thankful for the time I have with family and friends regardless of the numbers. lol Thanks for stopping by.

    4. Lordy, you wouldn't think there would be such contention about what day to celebrate Thanksgiving. Why would they even want to consider a December date with Christmas rolling in? I mean, how many feasts did they want in one month?
      I agree with you, Kaye, that Halloween and Thanksgiving set the tone and get us in the mood for Christmas.
      Ohmagosh! You said you are at your best in the dark days of winter and I'm thinking how I could be like a bear and hibernate until spring.
      All the best to you, Kaye, and Happy Thanksgiving!

      1. Sarah,

        I have the opposite version of 'not enough light' Seasonal Affective Disorder. Mine is 'too much light' and heat. I certainly don't look forward to June, July, and August where I live. I've never lived in Alaska, but I often look longingly at the long stretch of darkness.

        Happy Thanksgiving to you, as well.