It's always a challenge to find something new and informative to share for the various holidays, so I thought I'd pass along some of what I "knew" as a child, and add what little more I know today. Thanksgiving as a national holiday represents a day to be appreciative of what we have achieved and what we have survived. Traditionally, it was a day to give thanks for the bounty of the harvest that would carry the people through the coming winter and into the new growing season, and had been celebrated on various dates in the different states until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln, prompted by Sarah Josepha Hale, settled on the last Thursday in November for a national celebration, although, due to the ongoing Civil War, the date was not recognized in parts of the South until the 1870s. Franklin D. Roosevelt shifted the date to the fourth Thursday in November to provide an economic boost (that is, extra time for Christmas shopping).
To a child of the 1950s, the holiday seemed centered on the Pilgrims of Plymouth celebrating a decent harvest with their Native American neighbors. Little girls were dressed up in white bodice collars and caps with long black dresses. Boys had tall black hats and buckle shoes. Dried flint corn and paper turkeys decorated the tables, and we remembered the early European settlers to this country.
Of course, it was only later that I realized that there were plenty of other early European settlers. There was a Dutch settlement on the Hudson River near Albany, New York in 1614. The English already had a settlement in Jamestown, Virginia that had been established in 1607. The earlier Roanoke Colony in North Carolina was settled in 1585, but the colonists disappeared by 1587. The French established several short-lived outposts in South Carolina, Florida and Texas, but the oldest European colony in the United States is Saint Augustine, Florida, established in 1565. And, of course, there were also many other people already here, with cities and towns already thoroughly established.
So this year, remind everyone to celebrate Thanksgiving and share the stories of the making of this melting pot.