Going Coastal

Thanksgiving Day - November 24, 2016

"Thanks" in Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Day, is a public holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in America. Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789, after a proclamation by George Washington.


The event that Americans commonly call the "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621. This feast lasted three days, and — as accounted by Edward Winslow — it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating "thanksgivings"—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.

Squanto, a Patuxet Native American who resided with the Wampanoag tribe, taught the Pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn and served as an interpreter for them. Squanto had learned the English language during his enslavement in England. The Wampanoag leader Massasoit had given food to the colonists during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient.


Traditional Thanksgiving Foods

In 1827, the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale—author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”—launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians.


Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November, and it was celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan, known derisively as “Franksgiving,” was met with passionate opposition, and in 1941 the president reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.


American as Pumpkin Pie

American tradition follows a meal held in 1621 by the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims who settled at Plymouth Plantation featuring turkey (as an alternative to the traditional goose in England), playing a central role in the celebration of Thanksgiving. Other traditional foods today for Thanksgiving include turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, various fall vegetables, squash and pumpkin pie. Green bean casserole was introduced in 1955 and remains a favorite.


Thanksgiving Holiday Activities

Feasting brings people together during Thanksgiving. Following the Thursday “feast,” Americans flock to football, parades and shopping. Here is a snapshot of six of the nation’s notable parades:

•    Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York
•    America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit
•    Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade
•    Ameren Missouri Thanksgiving Day Parade in St. Louis
•    America's Hometown Thanksgiving Parade in Plymouth, MA
•    H-E-B Holiday Parade in Houston


After the parades and football, Americans enjoy Black Friday (a popular shopping day the day after Thanksgiving), Native American Heritage Day (paying tribute to Native Americans for their contributions to America) and Cyber Monday (because of heavy online shopping).


American have much to be thankful for several centuries after Pilgrims and others “gave thanks” from humble beginnings.  In 2016, let’s put “Thanks” into “Thanksgiving.”