Tuesday, November 24, 2015

7 things you might not know about the history of Thanksgiving

Taken from: Emma McFarnon, History Extra.

It is one of America’s most celebrated public holidays: a day of feasting, American Football and family. But how much do you know about the history of Thanksgiving? Here, we bring you some facts that might surprise you…

1) Tradition has it that the first Thanksgiving – a celebration of good harvest – took place in 1621, when English Pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts shared a meal with their Native American neighbours. However, historian Michael Gannon this week told Florida Today that the first Thanksgiving celebration in North America actually took place in Florida half a century earlierOn 8 September 1565, he says, following a religious service, Spaniards shared a communal meal with the local native tribe.

2) According to the US National Archives, on 28 September 1789 the first Federal Congress passed a resolution asking that the president of the United States recommend to the nation a day of thanksgiving. A few days later, George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday 26 November 1789 as a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin” – the first time Thanksgiving was celebrated under the new Constitution. The dates of Thanksgiving celebrations varied as subsequent presidents came and went, and it wasn’t until Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Proclamation – in the midst of the Civil War – that Thanksgiving was regularly commemorated each year on the last Thursday of November.

3) The US National Archives says that in 1939, with the last Thursday in November falling on the last day of the month, Franklin D Roosevelt became concerned that the shortened Christmas shopping season might dampen economic recovery. He therefore issued a Presidential Proclamation moving Thanksgiving to the second to last Thursday of November. Read more...