Thanksgiving is a recognized national holiday in the United States, Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia, which is observed on various days. It started out as a day dedicated to expressing gratitude for the blessings of the harvest and the previous year. Germany and Japan both observe festival holidays with similar names.
Thanksgiving is observed on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and on the second Monday of October in Canada, as well as during the same time of year in other countries. Despite having historical roots in religious and cultural customs, this day has also long been observed as a secular holiday.
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Thanksgiving In Different Countries.
Most religions frequently hold special gratitude rituals and prayers following harvests and other occasions. The origins of the Thanksgiving holiday in North America can be traced to English customs from the Protestant Reformation. Even though the harvest in New England happens much earlier than the late-November date on which the present Thanksgiving holiday is observed, it nevertheless features elements of a harvest feast.
Days of Thanksgiving and special Thanksgiving religious services gained significance in the English tradition during the English Reformation under Henry VIII. Before 1536, there were 52 Sundays and 95 Church Holidays when individuals had to skip work in order to go to church.
Although the Church of England’s 1536 reforms decreased the number of holidays in the liturgical calendar to 27, the Puritan group in the Anglican Church intended to eliminate all Christian holidays, including the evangelical feasts of Christmas and Easter, aside from the weekly Lord’s Day (cf. Puritan Sabbatarianism).
In response to events that the Puritans saw as acts of special providence, the holidays were to be replaced by days that were specifically called Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving. Days of Fasting were required in response to unforeseen catastrophes or divine threats of judgment.
Days of Thanksgiving, which were honored through Christian church services and other gatherings, were called for in response to particular favors that were believed to come from God. Days of Thanksgiving, for instance, were declared after the 1588 triumph over the Spanish Armada and the 1605 rescue of Queen Anne.
Following the collapse of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, an unusual annual Day of Thanksgiving started in 1606 and evolved into Guy Fawkes Day on November 5. Due to epidemics in 1604 and 1622, a drought in 1611, and floods in 1613, Days of Fasting were proclaimed. The charter of English immigrants, who arrived safely in America in 1619 in Berkeley Hundred in Virginia, mandated the recitation of annual Thanksgiving prayers.
Some historians assert that Martin Frobisher‘s expedition from England in quest of the Northwest Passage in 1578 is when the first Thanksgiving-day was observed in North America. According to some researchers, “there is no compelling narrative of the origins of the Canadian Thanksgiving day.”
It’s possible to trace the origins of Canadian Thanksgiving back to the French immigrants who migrated to New France in the 17th century and celebrated their abundant harvests. At the end of the harvest season, the French settlers in the region would traditionally celebrate with feasts. Throughout the entire winter, they continued and even shared meals with the local natives.
After 1700, New Englanders began to settle in Nova Scotia, and Thanksgiving festivities in the late autumn became widespread. The harvest festivals also included the customs of recent immigrants like the Irish, Scottish, and Germans.
When United Empire Loyalists started emigrating to Canada from the United States during and after the American Revolution, they brought with them the majority of the American elements of Thanksgiving (such the turkey).
The Provinces of Canada’s government established a Thanksgiving Day in 1859, asking “all Canadians [were asked] to spend the holiday in ‘public and solemn’ recognition of God’s mercies.” The Marquis of Lorne, Governor General of Canada, proclaimed November 6 as “a day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed” on October 9.
The proclamation for the present holiday, “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed—to be observed on the second Monday in October,” was issued by the Canadian Parliament on January 31, 1957.
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In the United States.
The first recorded instance of the yearly Thanksgiving holiday custom in the United States dates back to 1619, in what is now known as the Commonwealth of Virginia. On December 4, 1619, 38 English settlers traveling on the ship Margaret arrived at Berkeley Hundred in Charles City County, Virginia. The group’s charter from the London Company particularly required a religious celebration to take place right after the landing.
The charter proclaimed, “that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantation in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.” The original event has been remembered every year at the Harrison family’s ancestral home, Berkeley Plantation, since the middle of the 20th century.
The Pilgrims and Puritans who arrived from England in the 1620s and 1630s are responsible for the more well-known Thanksgiving tradition. They brought with them to New England their old custom of the Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving. A successful harvest served as the impetus for the 1621 Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Massachusetts.
The Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans, together with the last remaining Patuxet, had provided the Pilgrims with food over the previous winter in exchange for an alliance and protection from the opposing Narragansett tribe. The Wampanoag tribe joined the Pilgrims in celebrating this.
The “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated across a number of days in early New England history, including Pilgrim holidays in Plymouth in 1621 and 1623 and a Puritan holiday in Boston in 1631. The Pilgrims may have been affected by attending the yearly rituals of this holiday for the relief of the siege of Leiden in 1574, according to historian Jeremy Bangs, director of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum.
The fall thanksgiving festival in Leiden in 1617, also known as the 3 Oktoberfeest, was the setting for sectarian unrest that seems to have sped up the pilgrims’ preparations to immigrate to America.
Religious thanksgiving rituals were later established in New England by civil authorities like Governor Bradford, who organized a feast and celebration of this day in the Plymouth colony in 1623.
After winning the Pequot War in the late 1630s, Bradford declared a day of thanksgiving to commemorate “the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.” It wasn’t until the late 1660s that the custom of throwing an annual harvest festival started to become commonplace in New England.
In New England, declarations of Thanksgiving were primarily proclaimed by church authorities up until 1682, and subsequently by both state and church leaders up until the American Revolution. Political factors had an impact on the issuance of Thanksgiving proclamations during the American Revolution.
Both royal governors and patriot leaders, including John Hancock, General George Washington, and the Continental Congress, made a number of declarations thanking God for circumstances that aided their interests.
As president of the United States, George Washington proclaimed November 26, 1789, as the first national Thanksgiving holiday in the country. He instructed people to 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 transgender sins and acknowledge with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.
Debate Over First Celebrations.
There are conflicting accounts that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in what would become the United States in New England, Virginia, and other locations. The idea of this day as either a holiday celebration or a religious service complicates the situation. According to James Baker, the New England Calvinist Thanksgiving is where the American holiday truly originated.
The Puritan observances were special days set apart during the week for gratitude and praise in response to God’s providence, never in conjunction with a Sabbath congregation. Based on local allegations, Baker describes the discussion as a “tempest in a beanpot” and “marvelous rubbish.”
President John F. Kennedy recognized the Massachusetts and Virginia claims in 1963. On November 5, 1963, Kennedy issued Proclamation 3560, which read: “Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time of thanksgiving. On the appointed day, they gave reverent thanks for their safety, for the health of their children, for the fertility of their fields, for the love which bound them together, and for the faith which united them with their God.”
Other claims refer to an earlier religious gathering held in Texas’ San Elizario in 1598 by Spanish explorers. According to historians Robyn Gioia and Michael Gannon of the University of Florida, the Spanish settlement in present-day Saint Augustine, Florida, held the first Thanksgiving ceremony on September 8, 1565.
Setting A Date In Canada.
The earlier onset of winter in the North, which brought an earlier end to harvest season, is thought to be the cause of Canada’s Thanksgiving celebrations. In Canada, Thanksgiving didn’t have a set date until the late 19th century.
Many of the individual colonial governors of the Canadian provinces had established their own days of Thanksgiving prior to Canadian Confederation. On April 15, 1872, the country observed its first day in honor of the Prince of Wales’ recovery from a difficult illness.
By the end of the 19th century, November 6 had become the traditional date for Thanksgiving Day. On Thanksgiving Day in the late 19th century, the Militia held “sham battles” for the amusement of the public. In order to take advantage of the nicer weather and lure larger numbers, the Militia pushed for an earlier date for the holiday.
However, the Armistice Day holiday was typically observed the same week that the First World War came to a conclusion. The Canadian Parliament declared Thanksgiving to be honored on its current date on the second Monday of October in 1957 to avoid the two holidays colliding.
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Setting A Date In United States.
Thanksgiving has been celebrated on various dates around the United States. The date of the holiday changed from state to state from the era of the Founding Fathers until that of Lincoln. By the early 19th century, most American states had adopted the habit of celebrating the holiday of Evacuation Day on the last Thursday in November, which gradually replaced it (commemorating the day the British exited the United States after the Revolutionary War).
Abraham Lincoln declared the modern Thanksgiving holiday to be observed by all states in 1863. Lincoln established national Thanksgiving by proclamation for the last Thursday in November in celebration of the bounty that had continued to fall on the Union and for the military victories in the war, as well as calling on the American people to “with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience… fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation…”
Sarah Josepha Hale was a major influence. She wrote letters to politicians advocating an official holiday for about 40 years. Thanksgiving was not observed nationwide until Reconstruction was finished in the 1870s due to the continuing Civil War.
In an effort to improve the economy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a presidential proclamation on October 31, 1939, moving the holiday to the second-to-last Thursday in November. Since businesses at the time didn’t start promoting the Christmas season until after Thanksgiving, the earlier date gave consumers an extra seven days to shop for gifts.
However, the timing of the proclamation so close to the shift disrupted many people’s holiday plans, as well as those of companies, schools, and government agencies, and the majority of Americans opposed the move.
The celebration was that year dubbed “Franksgiving” by some of the opponents. Three states—Colorado, Mississippi, and Texas—observed both dates, with some state governors agreeing to the change and others maintaining the holiday’s original November 30 date.
After two more years of the double Thanksgiving, on December 26, 1941, Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress altering the official national Thanksgiving Day from the second Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday in November beginning in 1942. The American celebration of Columbus Day and the Canadian celebration of Thanksgiving have fallen on the same day every year since 1971, when the American Uniform Monday Holiday Act went into force.