A National Holiday of Thanks
As an American, this holiday is one of my absolute favorites! There is special significance to this year’s Thanksgiving too as this year marks the 400 anniversary of the Pilgrims landing in America in November and December of 1620.
Whatever one may think of the Pilgrims, their bravery should give us pause. To leave everything familiar to you and come to a strange, new land is not easy. To come to a land that is yet untamed and wild must have been even harder!
There are many traditions, legends and stories around the first Thanksgiving. The poor Pilgrims endured so many hardships in the first year of their time in America. When their harvest the following year of 1621 was more bountiful and abundant, they decided that the only way to thank God for all His blessings was to declare three days of thanksgiving and feasting. They invited the Wampanoag Indian tribe that lived near them who they were friendly with and who had helped them, to come celebrate with them.
After that first Thanksgiving, throughout the American Colonial period and on through the early 18th century, America had no national holiday known as Thanksgiving. The government often declared days of fasting and prayer and then days of thanks, but there was no official holiday.
It wasn’t until after the Civil War through the hard work of a woman named Sarah Hale that Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to be a national holiday in America in 1863. Mrs. Hale was the editor of the famous Godey’s Lady’s Book, a magazine for women during the mid-1800s. She made it her personal mission to have the president declare a national day of Thanksgiving. She proceeded to write many persuasive letters and editorials until the day was declared.
The holiday of Thanksgiving in America has always fallen in November. But it was not moved to its official place of the fourth Thursday in November until World War II.