Letter from Rep. Danou: Wishing you a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving HolidayMost of us traditionally celebrate the fourth Thursday in November as a family-centered festival as we eat plenty, sit back, relax and watch football.
By: Rep. Chris Danou , Pierce County Herald
Most of us traditionally celebrate the fourth Thursday in November as a family-centered festival as we eat plenty, sit back, relax and watch football. With another Thanksgiving holiday upon us, I want to take an opportunity to reflect and provide some information about the history of our Thanksgiving holiday.
The origin of Thanksgiving stems back almost four hundred years. The Mayflower left Plymouth, England in September 1620 with 102 passengers seeking a new home, where they would be free to practice their faith, seek prosperity, and own land.
The trip across the ocean was long and difficult. Conditions would prove to be even more difficult upon arrival to Plymouth Rock in present-day Massachusetts. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew survived the brutal winter to see their first New England spring. As the settlers moved ashore, they were surprisingly met by an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. The same man later returned with Squanto, a member of the native Pawtuxet tribe who was previously kidnapped by an English ship captain and sold into slavery.
After escaping to London and returning to America on an exploratory expedition, Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to grow corn, extract sap from trees, catch fish and avoid poisonous plants. Squanto also helped the settlers create an alliance with the Wampanoag tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years. Tragically, this remains one of the sole examples of harmony between the early European colonists and Native Americans.
In an effort to remember this act of peaceful relations during the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one day of thanksgiving a year. In 1789, President George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the U.S. government in which he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence, and the ratification of the Constitution. His successors John Adams and James Madison also continued the practice during their presidencies. However, it did not become an official national holiday until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln delivered a proclamation to all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”
Traditionally, Thanksgiving took place on the final Thursday in November until 1939 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed the holiday up one week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan, which has been deemed as “Franksgiving,” was met with strong opposition, pushing the president to sign a bill in 1941 making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.
Please take some time to remember that this holiday has roots of harmony and peaceful relations that stretch back to this nation’s infancy. It was through cooperation and working together that allowed the earliest colonists to found a permanent settlement that has become the United States of America. I believe it is important for us to remember the value of working in cooperation with our family, friends and neighbors. Most importantly, please take a moment to remember everything that you have to be thankful for in your life because Thanksgiving is much more than a meal or a day off from work, as it’s an opportunity to reflect on all the things for which we are thankful.