Thanksgiving proclamations and pardons

Published 10:16 am Friday, November 23, 2018

“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some 90 men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

Edward Winslow wrote this (The spelling changed for modern English) in 1621 in Plymouth, Mass., one of only two writings from witnesses of what we consider that first Thanksgiving.

It was in 1789 that the first federal Congress passed a resolution asking the President of the United States recommend to the nation a day of Thanksgiving. A few days later, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, Nov. 26, 1789 as a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin,” the first time Thanksgiving was celebrated under the new Constitution.

Subsequent presidents issued Thanksgiving proclamations as well, but the dates and months were not always the same. It wasn’t until Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation that Thanksgiving was regularly commemorated each year on the last Thursday of November.

In 1939, the last Thursday in November fell on the last day of the month. Concerned about the shorter Christmas shopping season (With that theory and today’s advertising and promotions, Thanksgiving would have to be held in September or early October.), President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a proclamation moving Thanksgiving to the second to the last Thursday in November. Sixteen states refused to move the date for two years, so different parts of the country celebrated on different Thursdays.

To end the confusion, Congress decided to set a fixed date for the holiday. On Oct. 6, 1941, the House passed a joint resolution declaring the last Thursday in November to be the legal Thanksgiving Day. The Senate, however, amended the resolution establishing the holiday as the fourth Thursday, which would take into account those years when November has five Thursdays. The House agreed, and President Roosevelt signed the resolution on Dec. 26, 1941, establishing the fourth Thursday in November as the federal Thanksgiving Day holiday.

And what about the President pardoning a turkey. The National Turkey Federation began giving the President a live bird every Thanksgiving in the 1940s. Some were pardoned, some weren’t. Since 1989, during George H. W. Bush’s first Thanksgiving as president, it has been an annual tradition for the president to “pardon” the turkey.3.3

Enough of these history lessons.

Thanksgiving is a time to thank God for our bountiful blessings. Yes, we are all blessed, regardless of faith. It reminds me of a quote from country singer Billy Joe Shaver, who once said “God Bless You” when someone sneezed on a concert tour. The sneezer, obviously not a Christian like Billy Joe, got bent out of shape, so Shaver said: “May the God of your choice bless you.”

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

– Mike Barnhardt