Thanksgiving’s history of gratitude


The holiday season brings high expectations of a cozy and festive time of year. Thanksgiving is known as a time to gather with family and friends and serves as a reminder there is a great deal to be thankful for.
For many on the North Shore, the holiday wouldn’t be complete without football the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and of course, eating a bountiful Thanksgiving feast. But high demand brings high costs for the meal, especially when it comes to the signature dish, the turkey. To help offset some of those costs, organizations around the North Shore like the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Glen Cove Kiwanis Club and the Anglers Club donated turkeys to members of the community.
Thanksgiving, like most holidays, comes with deep historical context. Most historians agree that the first real Thanksgiving was a prayer service and dedication that took place in the spring of 1610 near Jamestown, Virginia. About 430 of the 490 settlers in that community died from the harsh winter. When the English ships finally arrived with supplies, the settlers began the tradition of giving thanks.
The holiday went on to commemorates the colonial Pilgrims’ harvest meal shared with Wampanoag Native Americans, who were pivotal to the survival of colonists in 1620 who landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving in 1623 to celebrate the end of a long drought. The first officially designated Thanksgiving was celebrated much later, in 1789. According to the National Archives, Congress asked President George Washington for a national day of thanksgiving. Thursday, Nov. 26, 1789 was therefore declared the “Day of Publick Thanksgivin.”

Writer and editor Sarah Josepha Hale successfully established Thanksgiving as an annual national holiday. The long-time editor of the magazine Godey’s Lady Book, Hale frequently wrote about this already popular, but unofficial, autumn tradition.
Hale wrote a letter to President Abraham Lincoln on Sept. 28, 1863, requesting the last Thursday in November be a day of thanksgiving asking him to announce it to the entire country. That October, Lincoln responded by declaring the national holiday, saying the American people should take time to practice gratitude during the civil war.
1876 was the first year the college football championship was held on Thanksgiving Day and evolved into a tradition of watching football on Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving was set to fall on Nov. 30 in 1939, leaving 24 shopping days until Christmas. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order moving it a week earlier to November 23, thinking that the shortened Christmas season would impact the economy. Critics called it “Franksgiving” and Congress officially moved the holiday back to its current place in 1941.
The first turkey was pardoned in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy. Former President George W. Bush began the annual White House tradition of officially pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey in 1989.