Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Our day of public thanksgiving


   It is difficult to imagine for what the Pilgrims should have been thankful for in 1621, when fully half the 109 passengers on the Mayflower had died that first winter in their new world. But they were, so they invited the neighbors over. Approximately 90 local Wampanoag tribe members joined the Pilgrims for the three-day fest, sharing fowl and deer, along with berries, fish, clams, plums and boiled pumpkin.
    Thanksgiving has often been marked by the celebration of community during times of great difficulty. President George Washington designated, a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin,” for Thursday, Nov. 26, 1789.
    When the nation was torn by bitterness and civil war, President Abraham Lincoln began to celebrate Thanksgiving Day each year on the last Thursday of November, using it as an opportunity to note that we were, at heart, one nation, sharing a bond as Americans that could bend, but would not break.
    “I commend 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.”
    In 1937, during the Great Depression, Thanksgiving fell on the last day of the month, threatening to shorten the December shopping season and dampen economic recovery. President Franklin Roosevelt moved the official day to the second to last Thursday of November. At least 16 states refused to honor the change, forcing Congress to finally fix Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in 1941.
    As our official national holiday, Thanksgiving is a civic celebration that takes us beyond any particular religious observance. Through the centuries, however, it has always included expressions of shared community that still echo, whether in the contributions that generations of Native Americans have made to our way of life, the Union our forebears fought so hard to preserve, or the providence that draws our families and friends together this season.
    Every Thanksgiving, each of us must decide if we are able to give thanks for the opportunity to come together, as families do, and work together, despite our differences, and live together, respecting that we are all Americans.
    At Express Publishing, our answer is “yes” as we join the spirit of George Washington’s prayer “to our Creator for peace, union, and plenty through the trials that would surely come.” We wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.




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