A History of Thanksgiving Day


November 12, 1999


The Pilgrims celebrated their first American harvest in October 1621, their first autumn on the New Continent. Their Indian guests were seated around tables of game, fish, fruit, corn-bread and vegetables from their own gardens. Of course, wild turkey was in bountiful supply as the new settlers found "great stores" of the bird around Plymouth.

The year following the first feast the settlers held no celebration. A long drought withered the crops in the fields and only the arrival of a supply ship saved the colonists from starvation. The governor appointed a day of "public thanksgiving" but this also differed from what we now know as Thanksgiving because there was no feast following the church service.

Although there were feasts, fasts and "thanksgiving days" every year, it was not until ten years later that a festival similar to today's was recorded. The record tells of a town meeting in the meetinghouse with psalm singing, prayer and a sermon. After the service the settlers went about "making merry."

For years the festival was an almost uniquely New England institution, being observed in churches with sermons containing a highly political message. The day slowly spread to the Western and Southern states, where each established its own day of observance. For more than 100 years the festival was celebrated on different days by the different states. It wasn't until President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a day of national thanksgiving that the whole country celebrated Thanksgiving on the same day.

That tradition was followed by every president until 1939. When President Roosevelt named the next to last Thursday in November as the date of celebration. Roosevelt's wish to lengthen the time between Christmas and Thanksgiving was changed back to the fourth Thursday by a congressional resolution in 1941.

(From Tuesday, November 24, 1987 China Post)

感謝英文「中國郵報」 (China Post) 資料室陳主任授權轉載。