When it comes to major holidays, Thanksgiving has it rougher than most.
It has to compete with special diets, college football and Christmas creep — all of which have nothing to do with the original purpose of the holiday, of course, but nevertheless will, in many households, dictate how today is spent.
In recent years, some people have gone so far as to call Thanksgiving the “forgotten” holiday.
Caught between the fun of Halloween and the magnificence of Christmas, a day that focuses on food, family, friends and simple gratitude has a hard time getting the recognition it deserves.
So for today, we will provide the following historical highlights of Thanksgiving, to remind everyone why we celebrate this special day in the first place.
Most of us have a general awareness that the first Thanksgiving took place in November 1621. That’s when the Pilgrims, who arrived in North America the year before, celebrated their first successful harvest. They shared a feast with the neighboring Wampanoag tribe, thankful for food, health and friendship.
For many years after that, Thanksgiving was celebrated inconsistently in different states. But in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln scheduled a Thanksgiving holiday on the final Thursday of November in order to help unite the country.
It was not a fixed event, however, and a president had to proclaim the celebration each year.
Then, in 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced he was moving Thanksgiving up a week in order to encourage more Christmas shopping during the Great Depression.
It was one of those odd years when there were five Thursdays in November, and the Thanksgiving holiday was going to fall on the last day of the month.
Store owners and business leaders worried that such a late start would hurt their holiday sales. That’s because most people back then wouldn’t dream of Christmas shopping until the day after Thanksgiving.
So, to help out the merchants, FDR messed with tradition and changed the date.
The move did not go over well.
Americans, for the most part, balked. Some complained it was wrecking college football schedules. Others did not like FDR circumventing Congress. Still, many just wanted tradition left alone.
Two years later FDR relented, and signed a bill making the fourth Thursday in November the official date for Thanksgiving.
So here we are, still trying to keep the true purpose of Thanksgiving alive despite the lure of Christmas sales.
Thanksgiving may have morphed into a day to eat too much, watch football and plan shopping expeditions, but it still provides a wonderful reason for families to get together.
And that’s important.
For those who truly understand contentment, Thanksgiving can be the best holiday of the year.
For our readers, we hope today is, if not the best holiday of the year, then at least a very happy one.