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Posted on November 23, 2020 at 2:19 PM by Melissa Dalton
As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, it’s important, especially this year, to think about why we come together on this holiday. This year, the holidays are going to look very different for many people. Instead of large family gatherings, many are scaling back and only celebrating with those that live in their household. Others are taking their gatherings virtual so that they still can see family, even if they cannot gather in person. I’ve also heard that there are several people skipping the cooking, and ordering from local restaurants!
The concept of “thanksgivings”, or traditions of giving thanks and celebrating a healthy harvest, are noted throughout history. Many cultures celebrated victories in war, successful harvest, and even the end of drought. Variations of thanksgiving have been celebrated nationally in the United States since the Revolutionary War, but it wasn’t until the Civil War that it became more common. President Lincoln, in an attempt to give thanks during a difficult time, proclaimed that Thursday, November 26, 1863 be celebrated as Thanksgiving Day. Since this act, the holiday has been observed annually, although the traditions varied regionally.
Harper’s Weekly, 29 November 1862 (Greene County Archives)
Harper’s Weekly, 13 December 1862 (Greene County Archives)
Most presidents succeeding Lincoln declared the final Thursday of November as Thanksgiving. However, 1939 had five Thursdays, and Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday as Thanksgiving. Some historians claim that he did this to allow for an additional week of holiday shopping during the Great Depression. His break from tradition didn’t sit well with everyone, and not all states followed his lead. In 1940 and 1941, Roosevelt continued this break with tradition, declaring the third Thursday Thanksgiving. Due to this, Congress decided to pass a joint resolution to permanently fix Thanksgiving – making it the fourth Thursday of November. It passed both the House and Senate, and on December 26, 1941, Roosevelt signed the bill into law.
Today, many of the traditions we see have a long history. Two of the most notable are the Thanksgiving Day Parade and Football! What we now know as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was started in 1924, with the oldest parade associated with the holiday being the Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which started in 1920. Another well-known Thanksgiving Day tradition is football. This tradition dates back to just a few years after Lincoln’s declaration, with Yale and Princeton playing on the day. Thanksgiving later became the day for collegiate championship games. As such, when the professional football league, what is now called the National Football League (NFL), was established in 1920, they immediately adopted the day for themselves – with the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys playing on Thanksgiving each year.
No matter what your plans for this Thanksgiving Day, we wish you all a happy and safe holiday!
Until Next Time!
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