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Thanksgiving is one of the most universally celebrated holidays in the United States. It has religious roots, but also secular traditions.


The settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 1600's are often credited with initiating the feast. These Puritans and Pilgrims thought that celebrations of Christmas and Easter were frivolous. In fact they thought that ANY celebration was frivolous. But it was entirely appropriate to give thanks to God for protection and guidance. In 1621 Governor William Bradford proclaimed a "Day of Thanksgiving" for having survived the first winter and bringing in a harvest. But it bore little resemblance to modern feasts. Yes, turkey and cranberries were on the menu. So was squash. But so were venison and beans, too. Those were what was available.


Other early feasts have laid claim to be the "first Thanksgiving." Spanish explorers held a Mass of thanksgiving in 1565 near what is now Saint Augustine, Florida. Other Spanish explorers held a thanksgiving service in San Elizario, Texas, in 1598. And the founding charter of Berkeley Hundred in the Virginia Colony, dated 1619, codified a day of thanksgiving.


President George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide thanksgiving holiday on November 26, 1789. But that was a one-shot deal. Thanksgiving didn't become an official annual federal holiday in the United States until 1863. President Abraham Lincoln decreed that the final Thursday of November, each year, should be a day of Thanksgiving. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1941, changed the date from the final Thursday of November to the fourth Thursday.  

So now people everywhere have pageants re-enacting the feast at Plymouth Colony in 1621. That's where the pilgrim costumes come in. Then there are the turkeys. And the pumpkins (they're a type of squash, so may have been part of the Plymouth feast). And don't forget the Indian costumes, either. Legend has it that Indians were part of that feast, and that they in fact helped the colonists to survive long enough to have it.


Go ahead. Celebrate Thanksgiving any way you want. You could even wear a jersey or fan T-shirt for your favorite football team. No modern Thanksgiving is complete without watching at least one football game.


Whatever you wear, and however you choose to celebrate, enjoy the holiday with your family and friends!

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