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Reflections! How do you celebrate Thanksgiving Day?

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving Day?
By William L. Bulla
Weekly Contributing Writer

I love Thanksgiving! It's a day when we gather as a family, or with friends, and sit around a table full of food, which includes a gigantic "stuffed" bird and we say thanks before gobbling up the "gobbler."
But have people come to the belief that Thanksgiving is a holiday only about food? Oh, I know families and friends gather to watch parades and football on television. It is a time to relax, laugh and converse while building special memories as everyone waits for the meal. It is one of those holidays that seem to not be about much but we still celebrate it - probably because it is a day off from work or school. It is the holiday that is held in the colorful days of autumn. Families gather, laugh and enjoy a day where all the expectations are on being thankful. But it is a celebration of thankfulness for the country we have today!
In early autumn of 1621, the 53 surviving Pilgrims celebrated their successful harvest, as was the English custom. During this time, "many of the Indians coming... amongst the rest their great king Assassin, with some ninety men."
The Pilgrims did not call this harvest festival a "Thanksgiving," although they did give thanks to God. To them, a Day of Thanksgiving was purely religious. The first recorded religious Day of Thanksgiving was held in 1623 in response to a providential rainfall.
Many Americans believed that the Pilgrims chose the last Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving, but that is not the case.
At the beginning of Franklin Roosevelt's presidency, Thanksgiving was not a fixed holiday; it was up to the President to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation to announce the date of the holiday. However, Thanksgiving was always the last Thursday in November because that was the day President Abraham Lincoln observed the holiday when he declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Franklin Roosevelt continued that tradition, but he soon found that tradition was difficult to keep in extreme circumstances such as the Great Depression. His first Thanksgiving in office, 1933, fell on November 30th, the last day of the month, because November had five Thursdays that year. Since statistics showed that most people did not do their Christmas shopping until after Thanksgiving, business leaders feared they would lose money, especially during the Depression, because there were only 24 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. They asked Franklin Roosevelt to make Thanksgiving one week earlier. President Roosevelt ignored those concerns in 1933, but when Thanksgiving once again threatened to fall on the last day of November in 1939, FDR reconsidered the request and moved the date of Thanksgiving up one week. He proclaimed Thanksgiving 1939 would be held on November 23rd and not November 30th.
Changing the date of Thanksgiving seemed harmless enough, but in actuality proved quite controversial. It was so upsetting that thousands of letters poured into the White House once President Roosevelt announced the date change. Some retailers were pleased because they hoped the extra week of Christmas shopping would increase profits, but smaller businesses complained they would lose business to larger stores
Many Americans were angry that Roosevelt tried to alter such a long-standing tradition and American values just to help businesses make more money.
As opposition grew, some states took matters into their own hands and defied the Presidential Proclamation. Some governors declared November 30th as Thanksgiving. Franklin Roosevelt observed Thanksgiving on the second to last Thursday of November for two more years, but the amount of public outrage prompted Congress to pass a law on December 26, 1941, ensuring that all Americans would celebrate a unified Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November every year.
So that's officially our Thanksgiving holiday. Its meaning is lost to many. Thanksgiving is a day for us to thank God for what we have, as a country and as an individual. Thankful not just for the big things in our lives, but also those small things, which brightens our lives, like a smile of a child or hug from a friend.

William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.

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