Family Values, History, Holidays

Sobering Situation With World of Hope

Click to see original imageThanksgiving, a cherished American holiday, comes this year amid hopes for a safer and more peaceful world in the wake of U.S.-Soviet talks at Geneva.

But solutions to arms race issues remain elusive for the present and serious differences continue to feed strife in several regional trouble spots around the globe. Deaths and suffering from catastrophes such as famine, earthquakes, hurricanes and the recent volcanic eruptions in Colombia add another sobering note.

President Reagan’s call for prayers for the success of the summit might well be extended to critical future negotiations to prevent or settle conflicts and for victims of the natural disasters, giving added point to traditional thanksgiving prayers.

Thanksgiving customarily brings families together for feasts, prayers, sharing and reminiscing. O Henry saw it as a day when we Americans … go back home to eat and marvel how much nearer to the porch the old pump looks than it used to be …

The holiday, of course, is celebrated the fourth Thursday of November. Old-timers will remember that President Franklin D. Roosevelt thought it fell too close to Christmas. In 1939 he proclaimed the third Thursday for the observance. Not all states complied, however, and in 1941 Congress officially returned it to the fourth Thursday.

Historically, Thanksgiving commemorates the festival that celebrated the first harvest of the New England Pilgrims in 1621.

The colonists had come ashore at Plymouth, Mass, from the Mayflower Dec. 21, 1620. Only about half of the original band survived the heartbreaking winter. They labored hard and in autumn were rewarded with a good harvest, which they shared with Indians in a three-day feast.

In subsequent years it was common to declare Thanksgiving Days in the New England colonies following the harvest, but with varying dates. The custom was kept alive by proclamations of state governors.

In 1846 Sarah Hale, editor of a women’s magazine, began campaigning for a national Thanksgiving holiday. She suggested the fast Thursday in November because on that day in 1789 President George Washington proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving in honor of the new Constitution.

Leading up to Washington’s proclamation, the House of Representatives had adopted a resolution Sept. 25 asking the President to declare such a day acknowledging .. the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording an opportunity peaceably to establish a Constitution…

Sarah Hale finally won the support of President Abraham Lincoln. On Oct. 3, 1863 he proclaimed Thanksgiving Day to be observed the last Thursday in November each year. (The fourth Thursday ultimately specified by Congress isn’t always the last Thursday).

On Thanksgiving Day 1985, we should partake of the bounties and count our blessings, of course. And since sharing is part of the spirit of the holiday, it would be appropriate also to remember the less fortunate by personally helping someone or contributing to one of the funds for relief of the suffering.