Re: [civilwarwest] OT: Origins of Thanksgiving
While the celebration of a Day of Thanksgiving has a number of contenders as
the "First," the National Holiday we will observe tomorrow is a result of
President Lincoln's proclaiming a national day in November 1863.
National Thanksgivings were proclaimed annually by Congress from 1777 to 1783
which, except for 1782, were all celebrated in December. After a five year
hiatus, the practice was revived by President Washington in 1789 and 1795.
John Adams declared Thanksgivings in 1798 and 1799, while James Madison
declared the holiday twice in 1815; none of these were celebrated in the
After 1815, there were no further national Thanksgivings until the Civil War.
As sectional differences widened in the Antebellum period, it was impossible
achieve the consensus to have a national Thanksgiving. The southern states
were generally unreceptive to a "Yankee" custom being pressed on them by the
federal government. If the federal government neglected the tradition,
however, the individual states did not. The New England states continued to
declare annual Thanksgivings (usually in November, although not always on the
same day), and eventually most of the other states also had independent
observations of the holiday. New Englanders were born proselyters and wherever
they went during the great westward migration they introduced their favorite
holiday. Thanksgiving was adopted first in the Northeast and in the Northwest
Territory, then by the middle and western states. At mid-century even the
southern states were celebrating their own Thanksgivings.
What made Lincoln's proclamation unique was that it mandated a day for the
Interestingly, the holiday continued to occur as a result of presidential
proclamations rather than a law. The "official" holiday was a result of a law
signed by President Roosevelt on November 26, 1941.
Judy and Bob Huddleston
10643 Sperry Street
Northglenn, CO 80234-3612