Someone once said that the fact that we set aside a day to celebrate something means that it’s not normal. That is why it needs to be highlighted and recognized. Does that mean we are not normally thankful so there needs to be a day set for giving thanks?
Which made me wonder, why is there a Thanksgiving holiday? I’m not American or Canadian or European even. We don’t have that holiday here in our country. I don’t know if there’s such thing in other Asian countries but we don’t have that here in the Philippines.
When I worked in a BPO company serving American clients, I saw how important and celebrated Thanksgiving is. My ‘virtual office mates’ usually don’t take day offs even during holidays but when Thanksgiving is around, none of them remains in the office. Some of them are even gone as early as Monday.
But to answer my question at hand, I have another question. What exactly is Thanksgiving and how did it came to be (a holiday)? And here is what I found over the web.
According to my friendly web neighbor, Wikipedia, Thanksgiving Day is a federal holiday celebrated during the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and every second Monday of October in Canada.
According to history, Thanksgiving Day has been celebrated as a Federal Holiday since 1860s. However, the first record of it goes as far as 1621 when the Plymouth settlers held a harvest feast after a growing season. There were several other celebrations since that year onwards celebrating Thanksgiving with regards to a bountiful harvest.
There is however a claim that the first Thanksgiving was actually celebrated on Feb 21, 1621 when a band of starving pilgrims at Plymouth Rock were saved at the last minute by the arrival of a ship from Dublin bearing food from Ireland. The Boston Post, the largest circulation newspaper in the 1920s and 1930s, discovered the earlier date for the Thanksgiving ritual. It showed that the traditional date of the autumn of 1621 was actually incorrect. According to the “Observant Citizen,” a columnist for the Boston Post, the Pilgrims in the winter of their first year were starving and faced the end of the their project to colonize the new world when “a ship arrived from overseas bearing the much needed food.” Because of anti-Irish prejudice at the time, the “Observant Citizen” neglected to name it as an Irish ship, but it was actually The Lyon and “its provenance and that of the food was Dublin Ireland.” It turns out, from records at the Massachusetts Historical Society, that the wife of one of the prominent Plymouth Rock brethren was the daughter of a Dublin merchant and that it was he who chartered the vessel, loaded it with food and dispatched it to Plymouth. The “Observant Citizen,” whoever he was, never admitted the Irish connection, even though a number of Irish organizations challenged him on the issue. Nonetheless, the Massachusetts historical records revealed the tale, giving the Irish a fair claim to saving Thanksgiving.
During the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress appointed one or more thanksgiving day each year observed accordingly to different states. The first national proclamation of which given by the Continental Congress in 1777 from York, Pennsylvania.
From then, several national days of prayers and thanksgiving was proclaimed throughout the years.
Inn 1863 during the middle of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving day to be celebrated on the Last Thursday of November. From then on, Thanksgiving day was observed annually throughout United Stated.
All succeeding presidents followed Lincoln’s example and declared Thanksgiving day during the final Thursday of November. However in 1939, November had five Thursday and so President Franklin D. Roosevelt broke the tradition and declared the fourth Thursday as Thanksgiving day instead of the last. It was the time of The Great Depression and President Roosevelt thought that an earlier Thanksgiving would give merchants more time to sell until Christmas.
Republicans decried the change as an offense to the memory of Lincoln and this resulted to people calling November 30 as Republican Thanksgiving and November 23 as Democratic Thanksgiving.
1941, Thanksgiving became a matter of the law when both houses signed a joint resolution fixing the Thursday date of thanksgiving and finally declaring that it will observed every fourth Thursday of November starting 1942. Since 1942 up to present, Thanksgiving Day is observed on the fourth Thursday of November.
Regardless of how Thanksgiving came to be, I think it is not so bad to have a special day set aside to celebrate it. We’re humans and we’re all sinners. One thing all of us are probably guilty of is taking for granted the things we are blessed with. More often than not, from the moment we open our eyes in the morning, our thoughts are directed to the things we have to accomplish for the day or the troubles and problems we need to find solutions for. It may sound bad that most of the days of the year we are an ungrateful lot even when we don’t mean to be ungrateful.
Sometimes because of our temperament, we could always think of what is missing. We tend to whine and complain and we totally get blinded and forget the blessings that is given to us every day and one of them is to be able to open your eyes and live another moment.
We don’t remember every good thing that happens to us. And God is not even asking us to. Psalms 103:2 said, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.’ He’s not asking us to remember everything, just as long as we don’t forget them all. Whether you believe in God or not, I hope this holiday will give you time to reflect all the blessings and benefits you have received and thank the one who gave them be it Him or whatever higher power you believed in. May we be thankful not just for the things but also for the people that made our good days special and bad days bearable.
Here’s a couple of things that have marked with me with regards to giving thanks:
- If you cannot be grateful for all the good things God bless you, you should at least be thankful for the troubles that He doesn’t send.
- There was this text message that said, “Don’t be sad when all your dreams never come true. Just be grateful that your nightmares don’t.”
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.