Weekly Posting of the Conservative Cow Doctor


The Five Biggest Thanksgivings

Wow, what a difference 390 years makes. In preparing to write this column I searched numerous accounts of the first Thanksgiving. Depending on my search criteria, I could find a significant big Thanksgiving in every century since 1621. Each one is unique compared to previous celebrations, but to me, the fifth is the most significant and most important. Here is my list of the six biggest Thanksgivings.

Most all Americans are familiar with the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth in 1621. Against all odds, but aided by the merciful hand of God, the 53 surviving Pilgrims celebrated a bountiful harvest in early autumn.

The second big Thanksgiving was in 1789. At the request of Congress, President Washington proclaimed, “… a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God…” America was born. Our magnificent Constitution was recently drafted, but not yet ratified, and over the next two centuries all the world would reap the blessings of our great American experiment in freedom.

The third big Thanksgiving occurred during perilous times when the Civil War claimed the lives of 623,036 Americans—two percent of our population. (This would be a fatality rate of 6,000,000 Americans in 2011 terms.) In 1863, President Lincoln praised the “gracious gifts of the Most High God,” demonstrating we should give thanks to God in all circumstances. Lincoln’s proclamation further declared the final Thursday of every November to be set aside for worship and it was for the next 76 years.

Ironically similar to current economic times, the fourth big Thanksgiving occurred in 1939 when President Roosevelt shifted Lincoln’s Thanksgiving forward one week to the next-to-last Thursday in November. There were five Thursdays in November of ’39 and FDR was convinced extending the holiday shopping season would prompt America to shop her way out of The Great Depression. This was the exact logic President Bush used with the first round of stimulus spending in 2008 where each taxpayer was given a $300 check. (It didn’t work in either 1939 or 2008. Why do we keep repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results?) Congress moved Thanksgiving back to the last Thursday in 1941, only to have the Senate amend it to the fourth Thursday. President Roosevelt signed this amendment into federal law and it remains in effect today.

The fifth big Thanksgiving is a personal one which may or may not have yet occurred. If you are like me, your early Thanksgiving memories are cloudy snippets of moments with cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents at a relative’s house. However, these are not the big Thanksgivings of which I write, because you will never completely understand the holiday until you host your first family Thanksgiving.

When I was a kid, the Double Rafter Ranch was the center of nearly every family holiday and Mom did it all. Every celebration usually included breakfast, the holiday feast, and then dinner later that evening. Out-of-towners usually spent the night, so they were at breakfast the following morning. Mom fed them all, so I thought this was normal and holidays were effortless.

The trophy wife and I had our first big Thanksgiving when we hosted the family in 1983. We spent weeks preparing for the one day event and I wondered how Mom had made it look so easy. For then on, I approach every family holiday from an entirely different perspective. I am hopelessly addicted to large gatherings, so if my children and grandchildren can’t make it, we fill the house with friends. Fortunately, Druann thinks I am normal. Our great republic is strong because our American family is strong. If you don’t celebrate holidays with large family gatherings because you never have, perhaps you should. Your family’s big Thanksgiving celebration must begin with you because it won’t begin with anyone else. (Be sure to invite God.)

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