Diane Sori
by on November 25, 2019
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By: Diane Sori / The Patriot Factor / Right Side Patriots on American Political Radio
Thanksgiving...a truly American holiday at its core yet a holiday also celebrated in Canada, some Caribbean Islands, Brazil, and in Liberia as well. Thanksgiving...now predominately a secular holiday has its historical roots in both religious and cultural traditions. And while President George Washington proclaimed the first “national day of Thanksgiving” in 1789, it was not officially celebrated annually until President Abraham Lincoln, in an 1863 proclamation, designated the last Thursday in November to be "a day of thanksgiving and praise." And it remained so until 1939 when FDR moved Thanksgiving to the second-to-last Thursday in November after retailers balked that Thanksgiving would fall on November 30th that year thus cutting the Christmas buying season short...modern day political-style lobbying of sorts I'd say. More on the specifics of this date change in a bit.
But how and why did Thanksgiving actually become the holiday we celebrate today, how did it start, how was it politicized, and why has it now morphed into a day when talk of politics is frowned upon?
First, let's discuss some basics and start with the fact that Thanksgiving is most surely based upon ancient pagan harvest festivals. However, we as Americans associate Thanksgiving more with the Pilgrims, who in 1621, sometime between September 21st and November 11th, were joined by approximately ninety men from the local Wampanoag Iroquois tribe, including their Chief Massasoit, and together partook in a three-day-feast. And today we equate the holiday as a day for families to gather together to “break bread” as well as to thank God for his blessings and for the bountiful Thanksgiving meal spread out before us.
But two things most people don't know is that first, the Pilgrims themselves were not actually associated with Thanksgiving until the 19th century after “Forefathers Day” became a holiday...a holiday now long forgotten...when the Pilgrims became known as the “face of liberty,” if you will, as well as their being the precursor of the Founding Fathers. And second, the Pilgrims were not the first to celebrate a day of thanksgiving, that honor should actually go to the Popham colony of Maine, who celebrated the day of their arrival in America in 1607.
Now as to certain political aspects of Thanksgiving, know that the politicizing of Thanksgiving goes all the way back to the days of George Washington when his 1789 call for a national Thanksgiving to give thanks for the opportunity to form a new nation and for the establishment of a new constitution, did spark controversy amongst those in Congress. How so? Simply, some members of Congress saw in Washington's proposal an exercising of power that they believed belonged solely to the individual states, while at the same time other members of Congress felt that Washington's Thanksgiving proposal actually violated the guarantee of a “separation of church and state”...paraphrasing used by Thomas Jefferson and others in their expressing an understanding of the intent and function of both the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment...the very amendment which Congress had just debated.
Overlooked was the fact that in Washington's proclaiming Thanksgiving as a “national day of Thanksgiving,” he was embracing people of all faiths not just those of one specific faith. And while the Pilgrims did indeed come to our shores seeking religious freedom, on Thanksgiving Day 2019, Americans of all faiths and Americans of no faith are free to give thanks or not...free to feast together with family and friends or go about the day's business as they so chose.
And while religious “days of thanks” were long observed in all of America's 13 colonies ever since the time of the Pilgrims, it wasn't until October 1777 that all of said colonies celebrated a day of Thanksgiving. And it actually was the after-church meals that had become the norm by the beginning of the 18th century that led to what became the holiday we know today as Thanksgiving. And that all began when in 1846, the woman who became known as the “Mother of Thanksgiving,” Sarah Josepha Hale, author of the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb," became the editor of “Godey's Lady's Book,” a popular magazine of her time. Using her position to seek grassroots support for her campaign for a national day of Thanksgiving...a “Great American Festival” she called it...a campaign she hoped would become a unifying holiday that would help avert a civil war.
And while Sarah Josepha Hale's wish did not come to fruition, in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln asked all Americans to set aside the last Thursday in November as a "Day of Thanksgiving"...a day to unify a country divided. Saying in part, “The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies...No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Highest God...I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and a Prayer to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”
And yet while today Thanksgiving has become a mostly secular holiday, it's still a holiday that honors it's religious roots with politics, sadly, still hovering overhead.
Now fast forward to 1939 and FDR's questionable decision to change the date of Thanksgiving...a decision that did not sit well in many individual statehouses nor with certain governors who felt FDR's decision was an overstep of presidential authority. As I previously stated, in 1939, the last Thursday of November was going to fall on November 30th thus leaving retailers complaining to FDR that this left but twenty-four shopping days to Christmas. The retailers then requested, begged actually, the president to officially roll back Thanksgiving one week after it had been determined that most people do their Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving with the hope an extra week of shopping would allow folks to purchase more.
And FDR caved and rolled back Thanksgiving one week which immediately caused a lot of confusion with the result of said decision being that half the country chose to celebrate Thanksgiving on one day while the other half chose to so on another day. Also, already printed calendars were now incorrect; school vacations and tests had to be rescheduled; and Thanksgiving football schedules were all askew. And it also saw political opponents of FDR...opponents like then Atlantic City's Mayor Charles D, White who derogatorily called November 23rd "Franksgiving”...rightfully questioning the president's right to change the holiday by focusing their ire on FDR's breaking of precedent and total disregard for tradition just to appease businesses...just to appease retailers.
Simply, the power of the dollar won out over common sense and an American tradition. And to make matters worse the economy saw no boost in spending because of the date change. In fact, most businesses reported that spending was approximately the same as before the date change, but that the actual distribution of shopping had changed. How so...in those states that did celebrate Thanksgiving on the earlier November 30th date the shopping was evenly distributed throughout the season, but in those states that kept the traditional last Thursday date, businesses saw most shopping occurring in just the last week before the Christmas holiday.
In other words, FDR's changing Thanksgiving's now traditional date was all for nought, leaving Congress, on December 26, 1941, to pass a law declaring that Thanksgiving would now fall on the fourth Thursday of every November...as it has remained to this day.
And that brings us to more current times where partisan politics colored Thanksgiving Day 2003...when good intentioned gestures were turned into political fodder of the very worst kind. Remember back to November 27, 2003 when just a mere eight months after the start of the Iraq War, when insurgent attacks on U.S. troops were the norm, when then President George W. Bush in his rightful roll as commander-in-chief, paid a surprise Thanksgiving visit to American troops in Baghdad...an unannounced visit for obvious security reasons.
Now sharing a meal with 600 members of the 1st Armored Division and the 82nd Airborne Division stationed in a military mess hall at Baghdad International Airport, Mr. Bush stayed for two and a half hours. Jokingly saying while wearing an Army jacket that, "I was just looking for a warm meal somewhere," Bush became heartfelt with his words, "I can't think of a finer group of folks to have Thanksgiving dinner with than you all," with our president then added that, “You are defending the American people from danger and we are grateful. You are defeating the terrorists here in Iraq."
And the response from our troops included many soldiers jumping to their feet, pumping fists in the air, roaring with delight, and grabbing their cameras to snap photographs. Pvt. Patrick McFarland of the 1st Armored Division did sum it up best with his words that, “It helps a lot knowing that the commander in chief himself is going to come out here and make some of the same sacrifices away from his family, away from his home, to show that he is devoted and in the same position that we are." And yet President Bush was slammed by the Democrats who claimed that his surprise visit was for political show alone what with the 2004 election coming up.
Such utter and complete nonsense as President George W. Bush truly supported and honored those who both wear and wore the uniform of our country and he still does. Like I said, shameful partisan politics rearing its ugly head specifically on Thanksgiving Day...a day when politics should truly be frowned upon.
Why so? Let's start by saying that while we do live in a less overtly religious age than did the Pilgrims, George Washington or Sarah Josepha Hale, it would be a mistake to claim, as some do, that Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday in some respects, after all we do...most of us do anyway...say prayers to thank God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon us. Thanksgiving should be a time of tranquility, harmony, and family togetherness...a time to catch up on the newest happenings of family members...a time to “chow down” on what is possibly the biggest most bountiful meal of the year.
Simply, Thanksgiving must never be interrupted by those family members itching for a political argument with other family members...family members not of their same political persuasion. Prejudice and divisiveness should have no place at the Thanksgiving table for remember, political disagreements many times can sour even the best of meals, and it certainly must not be allowed to sour the Thanksgiving Day meal. And if truth be told there are plenty of other days...plenty of other meals...for that.
And so I say Happy Thanksgiving everyone...enjoy the Thanksgiving Day Parade, enjoy your Thanksgiving meal, and relish in knowing that turkey leftovers will be your dinner for many days to come.
Copyright @ 2019 Diane Sori / The Patriot Factor / All Rights Reserved.
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For more political commentary please visit my RIGHT SIDE PATRIOTS partner Craig Andresen's blog The National Patriot to read his latest article, Thanksgiving Without the Gravy.
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RIGHT SIDE PATRIOTS...LIVE!
Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 26th, from 7 to 9pm EST on American Political Radio, RIGHT SIDE PATRIOTS Craig Andresen and Diane Sori discussThanksgiving: Born of Politics...Tempered by Tradition'; 'Thanksgiving Without the Gravy'; and important news of the day.
Hope you can tune in at: http://listen.samcloud.com/w/73891/American-Political-Radio#history...or on Tune-In at: https://tunein.com/radio/American-Political-Radio-s273246/
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