Thanksgiving is one of the most popular holidays celebrated throughout the United States. One of the first documented Thanksgiving celebrations took place in 1621 when Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Native Americans shared a feast together. But the banquet, which celebrated the colonists’ first successful harvest, wasn’t just one large meal, nor did it last for only one day; in fact, the feast lasted for three days.
In later years, Thanksgiving also lasted for longer than a single meal. During the time of the American Revolution, the Continental Congress chose several days throughout the year to celebrate giving thanks. Then, in 1789, George Washington made the US national government’s first Thanksgiving Proclamation. He used this to speak to his fellow American citizens about the Revolution’s satisfactory conclusion and encouraged them to show their thanks for the freedoms they gained.
Sarah Hale’s Mission
Thanksgiving became a national holiday more than 200 years after its first celebration. It gained this status primarily due to the persistence of a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale. Hale was a successful magazine editor, a prolific writer of novels and poems, and author of the famous nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” which first published in her 1830 collection entitled “Poems for Our Children.”
In 1827, Hale began the campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. For the next 36 years, she wrote numerous editorials and countless letters to state and federal officials expressing her desire that it gain official status. In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday, hoping that it would help heal the wounds of the country.
Finally a National Holiday!
Lincoln decided the holiday would take place on the last Thursday of November, and celebrated on this day until 1939 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving a week earlier in the hopes of increasing retail sales during the Great Depression. However, this plan was very unpopular, and in 1941, the president reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.
Without the efforts of Sarah Hale, they might not have the pleasure of the Thanksgiving feast we know and love to this day. This year, give thanks for family, good food, and the resolve of one woman who recognized the importance of Thanksgiving as a national holiday.
Used with permission from Lake Oconee Dentistry.
Note from the Editor, Joyce Glass: If you are looking for a dentist, you will love Lake Oconee Dentistry! They spoil you with massage chairs while your teeth are cleaned, warm blankets during the winter time, and a meticulous and friendly staff!