The True Thanksgiving Day History: Thank Journalism, not Pilgrims

As you recover from your day of Thanksgiving feasting, you might be curious as to whom you should really thank for your day off from work or school day of celebration. There are many stories, myths, and misinformation surrounding Thanksgiving history. Equally significant are the many strong emotions and opinions evoked this holiday, including everything from the feel-good and sense of hope, to doubt and downright condemnation of the infamous feasting day.

But there’s a little-known truth about Thanksgiving that you may not realize. The real reason we celebrate the fourth Thursday of every November as “Thanksgiving” is because of a journalist, not the pilgrims.

In this fascinating article from Science Daily, ‘Thank Journalist, not Pilgrims, For Thanksgiving Feast’, Anne Blue Wills details journalist Sarah Hale’s crusade to promote Thanksgiving as a national holiday, and how it finally received national recognition from President Abraham Lincoln.

…Thanksgiving was never a regular ritualized holiday during the Pilgrim era. Instead, it was an occasional event declared as needed by clergy to thank God for good fortune. Likewise, clergy also called parishioners to church for fasting days in response to adverse events. β€œPuritans emphasized that you should never presume on the will of God, so they never would have scheduled Thanksgivings,” she said.

As Wills explains, Thanksgiving was never actually a singular or scheduled event celebrated by the Pilgrims. Instead, it was the Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine editor Sarah Hale’s brainchild. Back in the mid-1800s, “Hale was concerned over increasing factionalism in American society, and envisioned Thanksgiving as a commonly-celebrated, patriotic holiday that would unite Americans in common purpose and values. She viewed those values as rooted in domesticity, and rural simplicity over urban sophistication.”

I’ll let the original article do the talking, and only chime in to say that this account really alters my own perspective of the holiday and really shakes up some of the debate surrounding Thanksgiving’s true origin. Fascinating.

(Image credit: listverse)

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