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On this special day, we extend our best wishes to all for a Thanksgiving filled with love and laughter, whether you are able to be with family or not. We remember those who cannot be with family or loved ones because they are currently serving to secure our liberties, and we hope that all who may choose to travel for the holiday do so safely.
If you think you know all there is to know about Thanksgiving, read on.
Many consider Thanksgiving’s origin to be the meal celebrated between Pilgrim settlers of the Plymouth and Wampanoag tribe to celebrate the colony’s first successful harvest in 1621.
However, Thanksgiving was first declared a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln. On October 3, 1863, with America in the grips of a bloody Civil War, Lincoln issued a proclamation that the last Thursday in November be set aside as a day of thanks.
Much of the credit for Lincoln’s pronouncement should fall on Sarah Josepha Hale, a prominent writer known for penning the children’s poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in 1830.
Born in New Hampshire, Hale had celebrated an annual Thanksgiving holiday in her youth, and in 1827 she published a novel, “Northwood: A Tale of New England.” The book included a chapter on the autumn tradition, which in many parts of the young nation had become increasingly popular.
Hale became editor of “Godey’s Lady Book” in 1837 — she would hold the post for 40 years — and helped turn the periodical into an influential publication with a circulation of more than 150,000 by 1860.
Over the years, she wrote numerous articles and editorials about the holiday, often lobbying state and federal officials to affix a unifying date for the feast, thus creating a national observance. By 1854 a Thanksgiving holiday was celebrated in 30 states, but the dates varied.
During the Civil War, both the Union and Confederacy held numerous feasts of giving thanks, often in honor of recent victorious battles.
Hale relentlessly pursued her goal, eventually prevailing upon Secretary of State William Seward to write the proclamation Lincoln then issued.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up a week in 1939, apparently with the goal of extending the Christmas shopping season and thus spurring economic activity.
Some states followed Roosevelt’s move, but 16 refused to do so, creating dueling dates across the nation.
As opposition to the move increased, Roosevelt changed his mind two years later, and in the fall of 1941 the U.S. Congress passed a resolution permanently setting aside the fourth Thursday of November as day a national day of Thanksgiving.