25 November 2010

Thanksgiving in America : The Story of Thanksgiving, Part 5 (Updated & Reposted from Thanksgiving 2009)


Thanksgiving celebrations since the time of the Pilgrims and Puritans had been celebrated throughout the American colonies. They were always a time of religious reflection thanking God for that year's blessings. There was no set date for thankgiving celebrations but they would be declared by local leaders or colony governors in response to some event. Throughout the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress appointed one or more days of thanksgiving every year. The first formal declaration was made by the Congress in 1777.

As President of the United States, George Washington declared the first federal Thanksgiving Day with the following 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 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, which we experienced 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 enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the 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 hath 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 Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease* 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 third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789."

*an older spelling of “increase”

He would again proclaim a day of Thanksgiving in 1795 as would many of the presidents except Thomas Jefferson. James Madison would renew the tradition that has been followed ever since.
Even though US Presidents proclaimed a Day of Thanksgiving (though not every year), it was still not an official federal holiday. During the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, with the influence of Sarah Josepha Hale, decided to create a national Thanksgiving Day that would be celebrated on the last Thursday of November.
In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt broke with tradition and declared the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving. There were 5 Thursdays that year. In 1940 he declared the third Thursday (there were 4 Thursdays that November). His stated goal was to help improve the profits of the Christmas shopping season because of the Great Depression and since it was considered indecent at the time to advertise Christmas items before Thanksgiving. So, finally in 1941, the Congress passed an act declaring that Thanksgiving Day would always be on the fourth Thursday of November.


Other Links and Articles:
Presidential Proclamation – Thanksgiving Day (released on November 24, 2010 by President Obama)
Thanksgiving Features Native American Foods (VOA News article) & Video
President Obama Pardons Thanksgiving Turkey (VOA News article) & Audio

Watch video of President Obama pardoning the 2010 White House turkey in this unusual White House tradition! Download Video : MP4 (66 MB)


See also President Bush’s 2008 Thanksgiving Proclamation



Obama Pardons Thanksgiving Turkey

VOA News 24 November 2010

Apple, the National Thanksgiving Turkey, is pictured before being pardoned by President Barack Obama during a ceremony at the White House, 24 Nov 2010

Photo: AP

Apple, the National Thanksgiving Turkey, is pictured before being pardoned by President Barack Obama during a ceremony at the White House, 24 Nov 2010

U.S. President Barack Obama has granted a pardon to a turkey and its alternate, saving the birds from becoming part of a traditional Thanksgiving Day feast.

At an annual White House ceremony on the eve of the holiday, Mr. Obama on Wednesday spared the 20 kilogram turkey - named "Apple" - from the Thanksgiving dinner table, where the bird is typically the staple food.

President Obama joked it feels pretty good to stop at least one "shellacking" this November.  He had said after the mid-term elections earlier this month that his Democratic Party suffered a shellacking, or decisive defeat, in the polls.

"Apple" and the alternate named "Cider" will live near Washington at the estate of the first U.S. president, George Washington, where they will be part of a Christmas program until January.

Later Wednesday, Mr. Obama and his family will take two turkeys to Martha's Table, a local organization that helps feed and clothe those in need.  The president said the gesture of giving is what is truly meant by the Thanksgiving holiday.

At the pardoning ceremony, Mr. Obama thanked members of the U.S. armed forces for their service, saying they make him proud to be commander-in-chief.  The president's two daughters, Sasha and Malia, were with him at the event.

Thanksgiving turkeys have been presented intermittently to presidents since the Lincoln administration in the 1860s.  It was President George H.W. Bush who issued the first turkey pardon 20 years ago.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for the last Thursday of November to be observed as a day of thanksgiving.  The modern Thanksgiving holiday traces its roots to 1621, when English settlers in the Massachusetts Colony held a feast with a Native American tribe who taught the colonists how to grow food and hunt for game in their new surroundings.

Thumbs upAlso, check out the VOA News Article “Americans Express Gratitude on Thanksgiving Holiday

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