History Of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving in America traditionally kicks off the holiday season. How did Thanksgiving become a national holiday? Did Pilgrims from England really start the tradition?
The very first Thanksgiving was not “Thanksgiving” at all, but rather a three-day festival celebrating the first bountiful harvest in America aided by neighboring Native Americans, a tribe called the Wamapanoag. The people who sailed to the “New World” aboard the Mayflower were members of an English Puritan sect called the English Separatist Church.
In 1676, the governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts determined that the community needed to set aside a day to express thanks for the blessings they had received. June 29 was chosen to be this day of thanksgiving. On October of 1777, all thirteen colonies joined in a one-time thanksgiving celebration. George Washington then declared a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789. Finally, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln instituted the last Thursday in November to be celebrated nationally as a day of thanksgiving. In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving Day forward one week, as it is presently celebrated.
As the country became more urban and family members began to live farther apart, Thanksgiving became a time to gather together. The holiday moved away from its religious roots to allow immigrants of every background to participate in a common tradition. Thanksgiving Day football games, beginning with Yale versus Princeton in 1876, enabled fans to add some rowdiness to the holiday. In the late 1800s parades of costumed revelers became common. In 1920 Gimbel’s department store in Philadelphia staged a parade of about 50 people with Santa Claus at the rear of the procession. Since 1924 the annual Macy’s parade in New York City has continued the tradition, with huge balloons since 1927. The holiday associated with Pilgrims and Native Americans has come to symbolize intercultural peace, America’s opportunity for newcomers, and the sanctity of home and family.