November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day

On the fourth Thursday in November, Americans express gratitude for their good fortune. The American Thanksgiving tradition originated with the Pilgrims. As early as 1621, the puritan colonists of Plymouth, Massachusetts set aside a day of thanks for a bountiful harvest. Throughout the colonial period and into the nineteenth century, official days of feasting and fasting commemorated periods of good and poor fortune.

When Boston Harbor was closed in retribution for the Boston Tea Party, for example, Massachusetts authorities declared a fast day. The Virginia House of Burgesses ordered fasting in support of the Bay colony. Complying with the proclamation, on June 1, 1774, George Washington noted in his diary, "Went to Church and fasted all day."

Fifteen years later, President George Washington proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day under the Constitution.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations
to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God,
to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits,
and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and
Whereas both Houses of Congress have
by their joint Committee requested me
"to recommend to the People of the United States
a day of public thanks-giving and prayer
to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts
the many signal favors of Almighty God,
especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably
to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."
Now therefore I do recommend and assign
Thursday the 26th. day of November next
to be devoted by the People of these States
to the service of that great and glorious Being,
who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was,
that is, or that will be.