Even though we all face our own individual challenges, it is good to take time to give thanks — just as the Pilgrims did in that famous feast in Plymouth in 1621.
Back then, they faced challenges, more harsh than we can compare with today. In the bitter cold winter the year before, nearly half their people died. However, months later, with help from the Wampanoag tribe, they harvested a bountiful crop. They celebrated with their Native American friends in the first Thanksgiving feast.
It wasn’t until 1623 that the next thanksgiving celebration would occur. It came after a terrible drought, followed by several days of rain. When Gov. Bradford realized both crops and colonists would survive, he declared another day of thanksgiving. The Pilgrims knew even in the most challenging times, they still had much for which to give thanks.
General George Washington also understood the importance of giving thanks. During the darkest hours of the Revolutionary War, he fell to his knees in prayer in the snow of Valley Forge. When France subsequently provided assistance, General Washington called for a day of thanksgiving among his troops. Eleven years later, Congress accepted Washington’s request to declare Nov. 26, 1789 as Thanksgiving Day for the people to acknowledge, “the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Thanksgiving did not become an annual national holiday until 1863. In the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln, at the urging of writer Sarah Josepha Hale, saw the unifying potential of the holiday and declared the last Thursday of November as “a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.”
During one of the most difficult events in our nation’s history, Americans found it the most appropriate time to give thanks for their abundant blessings.
In 1939 at the request of retailers, President Franklin Roosevelt declared Thanksgiving would be on the third Thursday in November as a way to provide an extra week of Christmas shopping. It was a very controversial decision and many states did not recognize the new date. Critics called the new date “Franksgiving” and there was plenty of confusion. Finally, Congress decided in December 1941 to pass a law declaring Thanksgiving would occur on the fourth Thursday of November.
As we enter this holiday season, I am reminded of our many blessings. While people in other nations are suppressed by dictators and tyranny, we are blessed with liberty — that quality which brought the Pilgrims to this land and for which Americans have laid down their lives. That freedom gives us the ability to enjoy our families, speak our minds, practice our faith, and make government abide by the people.
I am personally thankful to God for the honor to serve you in the 4th Legislative District. What a great place to live, work and raise a family!
Let us be grateful not only for our blessings, but for the courage and strength of those who prevailed throughout history to enable us to enjoy the lives we do today. Let us use this day to give thanks for the blessings of family, faith, flag and freedom.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!