Lea Wait here, playing historian! We all know the basic facts about Thanksgiving, right? Pilgrims, Indians, etc, etc. Well, here are a few more historical tidbits to chew this holiday Thursday. Odds are you know some of these facts — but how many of your know them all? (If your family is together, test your children and grandkids!)
1. Thanksgiving is not just a United States celebration. Harvest festivals have been celebrated throughout the world for hundreds, probably thousands, of years. (In 2011 Canadians celebrated their Thanksgiving October 10.)
2. The Pilgrims at Plymouth in 1621 were not the first Europeans in North America to celebrate Thanksgiving. In 1565 Spanish settlers in what is now St. Augustine, Florida, held a mass of Thanksgiving celebrating their safe arrival in the new world, and then feasted.
3. Before the United States was a country, Thanksgiving was not celebrated in all of the English colonies. It had become traditional in several New England colonies, but was celebrated on different dates each year, the dates chosen by each colony’s governor.
4. The First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving was issued by the Continental Congress in 1777, in major part to celebrate the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga. Thanksgiving that year was celebrated December 18.
5. In 1789 President George Washington issued the first United States Proclamation of Thanksgiving Day.
6. After that, Thanksgiving Proclamations were declared by presidents in some years and not in others. Some states issued proclamations. Some southern states did not follow the tradition, declaring Thanksgiving a northern custom.
7. In 1864 President Abraham Lincoln declared a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the final Thursday of November, 1863. Since then every president has issued a similar Thanksgiving Proclamation.
8. EXCEPT in 1939 and 1940, when President Franklin Roosevelt broke with tradition and declared Thanksgiving to be the 4th Thursday in November.
9. In 1841 Congress passed a bill requiring Thanksgiving be observed annually on the 4th Thursday of November. President Roosevelt signed this bill, making the date of Thanksgiving a matter of federal law.
OK! How many of those facts did YOU know? No matter the number — enjoy whatever is on your holiday table, give thanks for being in this wonderful country of ours, and, from Maine Crime Writers to you and yours, the Happiest of Thanksgivings!