OT: Origins of Thanksgiving
Origins of Thanksgiving
For most Americans, the subject of the origins of Thanksgiving bring thoughts
of the Pilgrims, the Massachusetts Plymouth Colony, feasting, and possibly
the Thanksgiving proclamation issued by the Union's President Lincoln.
Yet did you know the Southern states were celebrating a day of thanksgiving
for years before Lincoln made that proclamation?
President Jefferson Davis issued several proclamations for observing days of
thanksgiving during the Confederacy's brief life.
In 1861 the Confederacy celebrated Thanksgiving on Nov. 15th:
A THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION, '61.
WHEREAS, it hath pleased Almighty God, the Sovereign Disposer of events, to
protect and defend the Confederate States hitherto in their conflict
withtheir enemies as to be unto them a shield.
And whereas, with grateful thanks we recognize His hand and acknowledge that
not unto us, but unto Him, belongeth the victory, and in humble dependence
upon His almighty strength, and trusting in the justness of our Cause, we
appeal to Him that He may set at naught the efforts of our enemies, and put
them to confusion and shame.
Now therefore, I, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, in
view of impending conflict, do hereby set apart Friday, the 15th day of
November, as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, and do hereby invite
the reverend clergy and the people of these Confederate States to repair on
that day to their usual places of public worship, and to implore blessing of
Almighty God upon our arms, that he may give us victory over our enemies,
preserve our homes and altars from pollution, and secure to us the
restoration of peace and prosperity.
Given under hand and seal of the Confederate States at Richmond, this the
31st day of October, year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty
By the President, JEFFERSON DAVIS.
R. M. T. HUNTER, Secretary of State.
There were several Southern "Thanksgivings" before the Pilgrims celebrated
their three days of feasting in 1621.
On December 4, 1619, thirty-eight English settlers at Berkeley Plantation on
the James River in Virginia stated in a charter that their day of arrival be
observed yearly as a day of thanksgiving to God. Their observance was based
on the Harvest Home festivals of England and was entirely religious with
The very first recorded thanksgiving in America occurred in Texas on May 23,
1541 when Spanish explorer, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, and his men held a
service of thanksgiving after finding food, water, and pasture for their
animals in the Panhandle.
Another Southern Thanksgiving occurred on June 30, 1564 when a French
settlement sang and prayed in thanks near present day Jacksonville, Florida.
Before Lincoln's proclamation in 1863, two Southern presidents observed a day
of thanksgiving. President George Washington issued a proclamation of
thanksgiving for November 26, 1789 to honor the adoption of the Constitution,
and James Madison mandated a similar day in 1815 to celebrate the end of the
War of 1812.
Lincoln's 1863 proclamation stated that Thanksgiving would be observed on the
last Thursday in November, and it was celebrated on that day for 75 years in
most states. In 1864, at Petersburg, the starving Confederate Army held a
cease fire while the Union Army celebrated the day with feasting.
In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in order to aid Depression-stricken
merchants, stated that Thanksgiving would be held, not on the last, but the
fourth Thursday in November. That year some states chose to honor the
"Democratic" Thanksgiving rather than Lincoln's
"Republican" one. The state of Texas celebrated both! In 1941, Congress
passed a joint resolution setting the date of Thanksgiving as the fourth
Thursday in November.
We can indeed celebrate Thanksgiving in good conscience as Southerners, for
we have a rich heritage of thanksgiving that precedes the Pilgrims and
Lincoln's proclamation. However, it is imperative that we tell our children,
our fellow Southerners, and other Americans the Southern origins of this
holiday. More importantly, we must observe the day as more than one
of "feasting and football". It is the one "official" day when we should
express our indebtedness to the Almighty for the multitude of blessings we
have received. On that note, everyday should be one of thanksgiving!
George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of
Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly
to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress
have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of
the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer,
to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal
favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably
to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness":
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November
next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that
great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that
was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all
unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care
and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a
nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions
of His providence in the course and conclusion of the
late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we
have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have
been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and
happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for civil
and religious liberty with which we are blessed and the means
we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all
the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and
supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to
pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all whether in
public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties
properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all
the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional
laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all
governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of
true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and,
generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as
He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D.
(signed) G. Washington