19 November 2020 08:31
Shoppers in the UK are eagerly waiting for Black Friday, but the Thursday before it holds a significant celebration for American expats. Thanksgiving Day is famously American, although it is observed in other countries as well, like Canada and Brazil. It is a national holiday in the United States, and families typically gather together for a large meal consisting of turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies. Churches put on special Thanksgiving Day services, focused on giving thanks to God and parades are also held, such as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, which will go virtual this year due to Covid-19. This year's thanksgiving falls on November 26 2020.
It always falls on a Thursday, and specifically it's the last Thursday in November each year. You can watch Thanksgiving events virtually, such as the big New York parade. In the English tradition, where the North American holiday has its roots, thanksgiving originated as a pagan harvest festival, turned into a Christian celebration, and is a secular holiday today. In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, carrying 102 passengers - a mix of religious separatists and people lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. In 1621, the colonists and Wampanoag Native Americans shared an autumn harvest feast in is acknowledged today as "the first Thanksgiving".
It is held earlier than Thanksgiving is, on the Sunday closest to the Harvest Moon. How did the Thanksgiving holiday come about? After the Pilgrims founded the Massachusetts colony in Plymouth in 1620, they celebrated their success at surviving the hardships they faced over the course of their first year. The colonists were malnourished and ravaged by disease their initial year according to History.com. One such Native American Indian Squanto showed the colonists "how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants." The colonist's efforts at farming proved successful after their first corn harvest according to History.com.
In November 1621, Massachusetts Governor William Bradford "organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony's Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American's "first Thanksgiving"—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days." A second Thanksgiving was not observed in the Massachusetts colony until 1623 "to mark the end of a long drought that had threatened the year's harvest and prompted Governor Bradford to call for a religious fast." These days of fasting and Thanksgiving became a regular annual tradition in Massachusetts and other New England colonies too according to History.com. This Thanksgiving tradition continued during the American Revolution in which the Continental Congress set aside one or more days a year for Thanksgiving. In 1789, President George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation for our new nation. He asked Americans "to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country's war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution." His successors to the presidency continued this tradition of Thanksgiving. It was not until 1817 when New York became one of several states "to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; each celebrated it on a different day…." In 1827, Magazine Editor & Writer Sarah Josepha-Hale who penned the nursery rhyme "Mary Had A Little Lamb" began a thirty-six-year campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday by writing numerous editorials and letters to elected officials in support of a Thanksgiving Holiday. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln took note of this and he wrote a proclamation in support of a Thanksgiving Holiday. According to History.com article President Lincoln asked Americans "to ask God to "commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife" and to "heal the wounds of the nation." As a result, he scheduled Thanksgiving for the last Thursday in November. It had been celebrated every year since then until 1939 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved the holiday up one week "to spur retail sales during the Great Depression" according to history.com. In 1941, President Roosevelt reluctantly signed legislation returning the Thanksgiving holiday back to the fourth Thursday in November. For more information about the Thanksgiving Holiday and to see advisories from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Connecticut Department of Public Health about how to safely celebrate the holiday during COVID-19 Pandemic please see the following websites: -of-thanksgiving -lincoln-and-the-mother-of-thanksgiving -ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays/thanksgiving.html -19-Knowledge-Base/Holiday-Guidance:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NSQLMPUK-8&feature=emb_logohttps:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pvtlt-p7vB4&feature=emb_logo This year, a possible harbinger of death. Has there ever been a year before this one when the coming of a major national holiday betokens not joy, but sickness and death? Public health authorities and responsible political leaders are being kept up at night by visions of family gatherings on Thanksgiving Day bringing together healthy people with their sick relatives, turning this traditional celebration into a coast-to-coast superspreader event. Calculate the established incubation period for the coronavirus and the course of COVID-19 symptoms, and we're talking about hospitalizations and lethal outcomes peaking just in time for Christmas. Yet a simple path to avert this prospect is staring us in the face: Let's postpone Thanksgiving. I'm not talking about putting off the holiday for now for some vague point in the future, but rather putting it off for a date certain in the spring. The date of Thanksgiving is eminently portable. That's happened without regard to the tradition ostensibly started by the Pilgrims, whose first thanksgiving feast, which apparently occurred after rains brought relief from a long drought, is thought to have occurred on July 30, 1623. The current designation of the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving wasn't fixed by federal law until 1941, and some states continued to celebrate the holiday on the last Thursday of the month well into the 1950s. Obviously, a formal officially prescribed postponement of Thanksgiving Day isn't possible at this stage, with the holiday due to arrive in just over one week and the federal government paralyzed, President Trump locked in a catatonic post-election stupor. That leaves President-elect Joe Biden to take the reins. He can't do anything official just yet, but he can present the postponement of Thanksgiving as the curtain-raiser to his program for fighting the pandemic. No doubt he'd come under fire from political adversaries — one can imagine the right-wing fever swamp of Fox News and OANN, etc., launching a dimwitted "Biden canceled Thanksgiving!" meme — but less so if he proposes a specific new date. The Atlantic's James Hamblin proposes to simply cancel Thanksgiving. He observes that public health agencies are urging people not to hold large gatherings, and acknowledges that "Telling people not to gather for a holiday is, of course, an unpopular message." So what should the new date be? To begin with, that date would mark the 100th day of the Biden administration, placing a capstone on a period of activity that has become, ever since Franklin Roosevelt's day, the first milestone in every new administration. A mask mandate and a program of moral suasion aimed at social distancing will be more palatable for the mass of Americans if a new Thanksgiving beckons at the end of the ordeal. Spring will be upon us, we'll be six weeks into daylight saving time, so the days will seem longer and the most susceptible among us will have shed the seasonal affective disorders that make winter seem so bleak. What will we be giving up by not giving thanks in November? Let's be honest: Late-November Thanksgiving is more often than not an inconvenient pain in the prat. Family members haul themselves long distances, often halfway across the country, only a month before they have to do it all over again for Christmas. The weather is dangerously willful; one snowstorm in Denver during Thanksgiving week can cause hundreds of flight delays and cancellations from Maine to San Diego. The prospect of gathering for Thanksgiving is producing not happy anticipation, but trepidation. It's true that some Thanksgiving traditions can't easily be postponed on short notice. The National Football League probably can't reschedule its Thanksgiving Day ballgames, but let's face it — Thanksgiving Day football games generally stink anyway. Corporate calendars and union contracts may mandate Thanksgiving Day off, but nothing would keep employers from adding a new Thanksgiving to their calendars in April. Retailers may miss out on Black Friday sales, but Black Friday may be pretty grim this year anyway, what with families struggling from the expiration of pandemic relief. If Biden can push a new relief bill past Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's obstructionism, family resources might be bolstered in time for combined Thanksgiving/Memorial Day sales campaigns in April and May. Nothing can keep this year's Thanksgiving from having a sepulchral tone for thousands of Americans. As many as a quarter-million families will be marking the occasion with one or more permanently empty seats around the table, and many thousands more will be thinking not about digging into the turkey but about a loved one in the ICU. It's impossible to calculate how many family plans for Thanksgiving have been canceled, but in my small family alone the number is three. The watchword for Thanksgiving this year should be, "No, don't bother coming down. This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.