For me, November is all about Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. What’s not to like about a holiday with no gifts to buy, no kids setting off firecrackers and no overpriced midnight dinners? Just lots of hearty food, football games and a parade or two to be shared with family, friends and, sometimes, our community.
Of course, I thought I had the Thanksgiving story down pat, having made my share of poster-paper pilgrims and cooked many a turkey with all the fixings plus pumpkin pie. Nevertheless, I decided to do a little research to see if there was more to learn about my favorite holiday.
Thanks to the Internet, I’m no longer sure where the first Thanksgiving took place — Massachusetts? Virginia? Also, when was it held? Who attended? What did they eat?
I did learn George Washington declared a Thanksgiving holiday in 1795; several other presidents did the same, including President Lincoln who, in 1863, established it as the final Thursday in November. The date continued to fluctuate until 1941, when we all began celebrating it on its current date — the fourth Thursday of November. (Our neighbors to the North celebrate a similar holiday in October.)
With all the debate about the Thanksgiving story, it was reassuring to learn that the tradition of playing football on the holiday and watching parades is well documented. The Detroit Lions have hosted a game every Thanksgiving Day since 1934, with the exception of the World War II years. The Dallas Cowboys began hosting games on the holiday in 1966, and many college teams end their season on that day. Parades have been held on Thanksgiving in New York and Detroit since 1924.
Based on my research, apparently we’ve taken a harvest myth and, over many years, molded it to fit our need to celebrate being thankful as a nation in some uniquely American ways.
And, for me, that’s okay. I believe it speaks well for us as a nation. Thanksgiving will continue to be my favorite holiday.
My wish for you is that you have something to be thankful for on the holiday (and that your favorite football team wins).