Don’t forget to say thanks

Thursday is Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving Day is one of America’s most beloved and widely celebrated holidays.

The day before Thanksgiving (today) traditionally is the busiest travel day of the year in the United States; the day after – Black Friday – is always one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

America is a nation of people who have come from many countries. We are a melting pot.

Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to remember to be thankful for the many contributions all Americans have made to preserve our existence.

Originally set aside by the American Pilgrims in 1621, Thanksgiving Day officially became a national holiday in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln issued the Thanksgiving Proclamation.

It is a time traditionally set aside to thank God for the good things in life. It is a time for turkey dinners and football, family and friends, and warmth and happiness.

America’s favorite holiday started when Pilgrim colonists and 90 Wampanoag Indians, led by Chief Massasoit, gathered together to celebrate a harvest feast in Plymouth, Mass.

Over the years, the 1621 secular harvest feast merged with solemn religious observances of prayer and feasting and Forefathers Day, which celebrated the Pilgrim’s landing at Plymouth, to become the Thanksgiving we know today.

On October 3, 1789, George Washington issued his Thanksgiving Proclamation, designating for “the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving” to be held on “Thursday the 26th day of November,” 1789, marking the first national celebration of a holiday that has become commonplace in today’s households.

While subsequent presidents failed to maintain this tradition, it was Washington’s original proclamation that guided Abraham Lincoln’s more famous Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1863.

In 1777, the Continental Congress proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

At the end of the Civil War, President Lincoln declared two national Thanksgivings with the hope of healing a tattered nation.

The first was Aug. 6 to celebrate the victory at Gettysburg and the second, the last Thursday in November.

In 1941, the latter date was permanently established by an act of Congress.

The exact date of that first Thanksgiving in 1621 is uncertain, but it is thought to have been towards the end of September.

Edward Winslow, third governor of Plymouth Colony, jotted down some notes of that historic day.

“The celebration and feasting went on for three days and included games and recreation,” Winslow’s writings said.

The feast included 90 Indian guests, who brought venison from five deer, and 50 Pilgrims, who provided wild ducks, geese, swans and turkeys.

Research reveals that cranberry sauce was not common until sugar became readily available for sweetening the tart cranberry.

The menu, however, did include lobster, roasted goose, boiled turkey, a pudding of Indian corn and dried whorlberries, fricassee of rabbit, cod, roasted ducks, stewed pumpkin, roasted venison, and hominy pudding.

Table settings were primitive by today’s standards.

Don’t tell the kids, but most of the eating was done with the hands.

Forks were not provided as they were not commonly used in 1621.

However, large cloth napkins were used both to serve and to eat.

Originally, napkins were used not only for wiping one’s fingers and face, but to pick up hot morsels of food or to hold a roast for carving.

The concept of Thanksgiving was not new to the citizens of the new United States.

Colonists, even before the Pilgrims, often established Thank Days to mark certain occasions.

These one-time events could occur at any time of the year and were usually more solemn than the Thanksgiving we observe today, emphasizing prayer and spiritual reflection.

Go ahead, enjoy the meal, the family gathering, and the football games this Thanksgiving.

But don’t forget to say thanks.