Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated as a day of giving thanks for the harvest and the preceding year. Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated as a secular holiday.
The origin of Thanksgiving stems back to Virginia rather than New England, as many of us were taught. The 1619 arrival of 38 English settlers at Berkeley Hundred in Charles City County, Virginia, concluded with a religious celebration. They declared “that the day of our ships’ arrival at the place assigned … in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.” The 1621 Plymouth feast originally thought to be the holiday’s beginning, was prompted by a good harvest that the Pilgrims shared with Native Americans as thanks for helping them survive the previous winter when food was scarce.
Thanksgiving was observed on many different dates throughout US history. From the time of the Founding Fathers until the days of Abraham Lincoln, the date on which Thanksgiving was observed varied from state to state. The final Thursday in November became the customary date in most US states by the early 19th century. Modern Thanksgiving was first officially called for in all states in 1863 by a presidential proclamation from Abraham Lincoln. Influenced by Sarah Josepha Hale, who wrote letters to politicians for around 40 years trying to make it an official holiday, Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving on the final Thursday in November. Its intention was specifically to celebrate the Union’s bounties and military successes in the war. Due to the Civil War, a nationwide Thanksgiving date was not realized until the 1870s.
Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated in many different ways: parades, football, family gatherings, feasts, holiday shopping and much more. How do you celebrate? Drop us a line on social to tell us about your Thanksgiving traditions!
Written by Lynda Walz, Sales Executive