By Ray Knapp
The first Thanksgiving in the New World occurred with the 53 colonists (all who remained of the 100 who had landed) from the Mayflower expedition along with 90 Indian friends in the fall of 1621. It lasted for three days. Around our house, depending on what my wife cooks, I would say it lasts upward of a week.
Like all holidays there has been so much research done about it that you could write a book just from the research on its original date, and various other dates in between 1621 and the Thanksgiving we will celebrate tomorrow. The first Thanksgiving Day for the United States was proclaimed by President George Washington, “noting that both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested [him] to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer,'” formally declared November 26 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.”
Various dates for Thanksgiving ensued over the years until finally a date was established by the House and Senate in 1941 and signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt as the 4th Thursday in November. Regardless of the day it falls on, I enjoy Thanksgiving; not so much for the Turkey and fixings, (as I once did) but because it is a day to give thanks.
I’m surprised that the Freedom From Religion Foundation hasn’t challenged Thanksgiving Day as discriminatory towards atheists and agnostics. Perhaps they haven’t come up with a reason convincing enough to show they are specifically harmed by it.
Locally, and across the nation, many churches and civic/service organizations prepare hundreds of thousands of meals and food baskets for the homeless and less fortunate. It is no different here in our county. One of the highlights of the year for my wife and I is delivering some of the meals prepared by Ninth Street Baptist and Grace United Methodist Church on that day.
Seeing as how we’re representing the churches and our Maker, we always ask if the recipients would like for us to say a prayer for them. Some, I’ve noticed, are caught off guard by this, while others gladly say yes, and they often ask prayers for members of their family. I was touched by one older lady that lived just off Hwy 107. After I had said a prayer for her and prayed a blessing over the food, she surprised me by giving a blessing for our churches, the members and pastors.
The first time we volunteered to deliver meals we returned to the church expecting some leftovers to eat. There wasn’t any. We went home and had a microwave dinner. Maybe we felt more blessed because of that. Anyway we had a good laugh about ‘our’ Thanksgiving meal and it made that day all the more special-a day we won’t forget.
Of course merchants prepare all year for its arrival. Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving, is known for “Door Buster” sales. However, to be first, merchants have backed the time to start their sales to as much as a week before that day, and ‘Black Friday’ don’t have the same impact it once had and of course online sales has made somewhat of a confused mess of Black Friday. The 2 juggernauts of sales in general, Wal-Mart and Amazon, are going after one another’s sales this year, which may make it a buyers’ market, especially between now and Christmas.
Perhaps, of all the presidential proclamations concerning Thanksgiving Day, Abraham Lincoln said it best with his Proclamation of Thanksgiving of Octo. 3, 1863, which reads: “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”