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Happy Thanksgiving Day 2023: Origin of National Holiday

Nov 23, 2023
American Indians Thanksgiving Day

Your Harrison wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving. The origins of Thanksgiving in the United States trace back to the early 17th century, with the commonly cited first Thanksgiving celebrated in 1621. This event involved the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Native Americans sharing an autumn harvest feast, which is acknowledged as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. 

The celebration of Thanksgiving before it became a national holiday was celebrated at different times often reflecting local harvest times and traditions. The concept of a national Thanksgiving Day began to take shape in the late 18th century. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year, and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States. He called upon 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. 

However, it was not until the 19th century that Thanksgiving Day was established as a regular and official holiday. Sarah Josepha Hale, an influential magazine editor and author, is often credited with the establishment of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For several decades, she campaigned to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, writing letters to governors, senators, presidents, and other politicians. 

Her persistent efforts finally paid off during the Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln, in an attempt to foster a sense of unity among the Northern and Southern states, heeded Hale's request. In 1863, amidst the Civil War, Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November. He declared the final Thursday in November as a day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens." 

Since then, Thanksgiving has been observed annually in the United States. In 1941, the U.S. Congress passed a law that officially established the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day, thus making it a federal holiday.  

Today, Thanksgiving Day is a time for Americans to gather with family and friends, reflecting on and giving thanks for the blessings of the past year. It is marked by traditional feasts, parades, and various forms of celebration across the country. 

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