How do you celebrate or observe THANKSGIVING? We all have our own memories and traditions. For me it was a house full of people, family and friends, plenty of food, and lively conversation. It was the parades, “Snoopy’s Thanksgiving” and football on the television. But Thanksgiving dinner always started with prayers and the Catholic, Lutheran and other blessings over the meals depending on who was eating dinner with us.
Our Thanksgiving Days in our lifetimes have come to mean food, parades, shopping and football. We need to remember what “THANKSGIVING” really means and show our gratefulness for the blessings we enjoy as a family and as a nation. In all the day’s preparations and activities - let’s not forget to be thankful for our bounty.
However, how many of us recall why we celebrate Thanksgiving in the first place? When I was young it was all about the Pilgrims and the turkey. Then I started learning the true history and found it is quite fascinating.
The FIRST THANKSGIVINGS were truly days of prayer and thanksgiving held by those who came to the shores of America. First, the Spanish came to the shores of Florida in 1565 and settled St Augustine. Their first thanksgiving was an outdoor mass in gratitude for safe deliverance and prayers for a prosperous venture. English settlers came once again in 1607 and settled Jamestowne finding a new life. After some years of hardship they survived to celebrate in thanksgiving as the settlement finally began to prosper. In 1619 other English explorers came to the James River area and settled what would become Berkley Plantation. Upon landing they knelt in prayer in thanksgiving for their safe journey, new freedoms and opportunities and ate their meal together. The Pilgrims, seeking religious freedom, landed at Plymouth in 1620, the first of several waves of new immigrants of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Pilgrims feasted in thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest which meant their survival. The tradition was born.
On October 3, 1789 President George Washington declared a special day of public Thanksgiving and prayer for the 26th Day of November 1789 as requested by both Houses of Congress. The Proclamation reads in part that the day shall be “…observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” It also reads that the People of these United States should devote themselves to being thankful, “in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.” Finally, the Proclamation states that we should then “unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; … and, in general to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.”
On October 3, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln, after some of the worst battles of the Civil War then raging for over 2 years and a month or so before delivering his now famous Gettysburg Address, at the urging of Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor, proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving to be held in perpetuity on the same day in all of the United States. Thus the last Thursday of November was set aside as a “Day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” The Proclamation states all the good things we had been blessed with despite being at war for which to be thankful for. President Lincoln, therefore, made further Proclamation that, “… I recommend to them [the people] that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverance and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, command to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”
Mary Louise Jesek Daley
Resident of neighborhood since 1956. Worked on East 185th street since 1970.