Thursday, November 12, 2009


Thanksgiving is the day America sets aside for family and friend for remembrance. It’s a day of turkey and pumpkin pie but if it was not for a persistent female magazine editor, we may not have the day to celebrate today. It was Sarah Josepha Hale who really pushed hard for a permanent national Thanksgiving celebration.

Most stories of Thanksgiving history start with the harvest celebration of the pilgrims and the Indians that took place in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the autumn of 1621. The next ‘thanksgiving’ celebration did not occur until 1623.

In 1668 the Plymouth General Court tried to bring some order to the celebration by declaring November 25th to be Thanksgiving. It was a proclamation that only lasted within the colony for five years.

The first national celebration of Thanksgiving occurred in 1777. This one-time only event occurred at this time also as a way to celebrate the American defeat of the British at Saratoga.

In 1789 George Washington made the first Presidential proclamation declaring Thanksgiving a national event. The first Thanksgiving held under this proclamation occurred on November 26 of that year. The pattern was set.

When Thomas Jefferson’s was President, he decided against the idea of Thanksgiving. At this time, many were against the idea of taking a day to honor the hard times of a few pilgrims. And so it went for nearly sixty years, until Sarah Josepha Hale came to bat.

Sarah Josepha Hale was a magazine editor, Hale wrote strong editorials in many of the popular magazines of the time she also wrote letters to anyone and everyone (including Presidents, Governors, Congress members and others) who might help her cause. She was concerned with her belief that the country needed to set aside a day to give thanks ‘unto him from who all blessings flow’.

Finally she struck the right chord with Abraham Lincoln and in 1863, Hale saw her dream realized as the President declared the last Thursday of November as a national day of Thanksgiving.

During Roosevelt’s administration, in 1941, Congress declared the fourth Thursday in November to be the legal Holiday known as Thanksgiving.

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