America celebrates Thanksgiving Day every fourth Thursday in November. It is a traditional holiday celebrated with family and friends, a time for gathering and having a special meal. The holiday is observed to give thanks for what they have and usually included a bountiful feast of turkey and stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, vegetables and potatoes. It also signals the time for people to start their Christmas shopping.
In today’s world, the meaning of Thanksgiving Day in America somehow got lost in its interpretation.
Many people today believe that Thanksgiving Day is the day to give thanks for a bountiful fall harvest.
It began in 1619 when 38 English settlers arrived in Berkeley Hundred in Virginia. They left England to avoid religious persecution. The pilgrims had a contract with their merchant sponsors in London, which stated that everything that they produced would go to a common commissary. What they did not know was that they would be met with hostility, both from the land and the original settlers in the area. After years of hardship, William Bradford, their governor who traveled with them from England assigned a parcel of land for each family to farm and manage and the Plymouth settlers achieved huge success, starting businesses and trading with other communities. And they continued to give thanks to God for their blessings.
The drought that struck in 1623 almost caused all the crops to wither, but was “miraculously” saved by 14 days of rain, causing an increase in harvest, which led to a major thanksgiving celebration. This became the start of giving thanks for a bountiful autumn harvest.
National Day of Thanksgiving
There were many occasions when a day of Thanksgiving had been proclaimed in the United States, of which some of the earlier ones were religious in nature. From the draft presented by Delegate Samuel Adams during the American Revolutionary War, President George Washington proclaimed a day in December 1777 as a thanksgiving day for their victory against the British forces. He again proclaimed November 26 as Thanksgiving Day in 1789 and in 1795 while President John Adams proclaimed thanksgiving days in 1798 and 1799, which were all related to military victories.
The last Thursday of November became the national day of Thanksgiving and Praise as declared by President Abraham Lincoln. It was proclaimed during the middle of the American Civil War, when despite all the atrocities happening around, the hardships incurred by the inhabitants of areas involved in the war, majority of the people did not stop toiling, tilling the fields, going out to sea and doing all they can to support their families and the government, for which the President gave thanks. Thus it became an annual holiday.
While the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday, no one knew how it originated. Some theories declared that it was due to the after-Thanksgiving traffic caused by too many vehicles, causing the road surface to turn black from all the wheel marks. Another theory stated that it came from the practice of recording business losses and profits during this day. Black ink was used to mark profits while red ink was for losses. Many business owners hope to see black ink on their account records, rather than red, to show profit before the Christmas season starts. Today Black Friday is an annual celebration to signal the start of Christmas shopping. It is not a federal holiday, although eleven states in the U.S. observe the day as a public holiday.
So while today’s observance of Thanksgiving Day is centered more on family get-togethers, parades, parties, football and vacations, you should also not forget that the real meaning of the holiday is to give thanks to the forefathers who fought hard to make the country safe and free from oppressors as well as to those millions of men, women and children who toiled endlessly even during the times of aggression to put food on the table, kept businesses from folding and starting industries to support the nation. All of you have been reaping the rewards gained from their sacrifices. That’s what you should be thankful for.