Thanksgiving: A Great American Tradition

Reno Gazette Journal December 1, 2019

Thanksgiving is a truly American tradition. No other country other than America (and our cousins north of the border who celebrate a different version at a different time) celebrates this holiday. This tradition dates all the way back to October 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Fifty-three pilgrims were joined by ninety Wampanoag Indians for a feast which lasted three days. The Indian guests, led by Chief Massasoit, brought five deer to the gathering. The feast is said to have had a menu that included corn, turkey, venison, corn, beans, garlic, artichoke, concord grapes, walnuts and chestnuts.

As with everything else, Thanksgiving has evolved over time. In 1789, President George Washington issued the first proclamation by a President to “recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer…”. Starting with President Lincoln, Thanksgiving was observed on the last Thursday of November. Of course, no American holiday would be complete without political interference. In 1939, President Roosevelt changed Thanksgiving Day to the third Thursday of November. Democrats loved it; Republicans hated it. So, Republican Thanksgiving was celebrated by half the states on the fourth Thursday and Democrat Thanksgiving was celebrated by the other half on the third Thursday. Some derisively dubbed it “Franksgiving”. Normalcy was returned when Congress in 1942 passed and President Roosevelt signed a law permanently moving Thanksgiving Day to the fourth Thursday in November.

While nearly four centuries have passed, many of the underlying traditions remain. We spend the day giving thanks to the Lord. We join friends and family to celebrate. Thanksgiving is also the start of a season of generosity. Many Americans volunteer at food banks and homeless shelters. In 1876, another great American tradition of football was added to Thanksgiving as Yale and Princeton began an annual tradition of playing each other on Thanksgiving Day. In 1934, National Football League joined in. Detroit Lions have played on Thanksgiving Day ever since; Dallas Cowboys started playing on Thanksgiving Day starting in 1966.

As Americans, we have a lot to be thankful for: This great country; George Washington, without whom there would be no America; Alexander Hamilton, who put together the young nation’s long-enduring financial system; Our Founding Fathers for the world’s shortest Constitution and longest living one; Our armed forces who fight our enemies overseas, so we can be safe at home; The CIA, whose agents serve in far-flung destinations and hostile territories; The FBI, whose agents who keep our homeland safe; Our Police Officers who protect us; Our firefighters who protect our homes; our family and friends who are always there for us; The freedom to disagree, argue, and rant but still come back together as one nation; And, most importantly, the Almighty Lord for blessing us with all of the above.

One final point: The vast majority of Forbes’ 400 richest Americans are self-made and 254 of them started their own business. We are truly an opportunity society. In this nation, we have a lot more opportunities than people in any other country. In this most free of nations, we can go as high and as far as our talent and willingness to work will take us. Our poor are richer than the rich people in many countries. We can either think of all the things in life we don’t have and choose to be unhappy, or, we can look at everything we have and choose to be happy while simultaneously working for an even better tomorrow. On this Thanksgiving Day, let us give thanks to all the riches this great country and the good Lord have bestowed upon us. Happy Thanksgiving!