Nov. 25


A weekly publication of               11/25/2014

Did you know... 

It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.

Dear Pat,

The history of Thanksgiving from History.com.

In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.

Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.

In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days. While no record exists of the historic banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations.

Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in 1623 to mark the end of a long drought that had threatened the year’s harvest and prompted Governor Bradford to call for a religious fast. Days of fasting and thanksgiving on an annual or occasional basis became common practice in other New England settlements as well. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year, and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States; in it, he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. His successors John Adams and James Madison also designated days of thanks during their presidencies.

In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; each celebrated it on a different day, however, and the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition. In 1827, the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale—author, among countless other things, of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”—launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians. Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November, and it was celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when Franklin D. Rooseveltmoved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan, known derisively as Franksgiving, was met with passionate opposition, and in 1941 the president reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.

In many American households, the Thanksgiving celebration has lost much of its original religious significance; instead, it now centers on cooking and sharing a bountiful meal with family and friends. Turkey, a Thanksgiving staple so ubiquitous it has become all but synonymous with the holiday, may or may not have been on offer when the Pilgrims hosted the inaugural feast in 1621. Today, however, nearly 90 percent of Americans eat the bird—whether roasted, baked or deep-fried—on Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation. Other traditional foods include stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Volunteering is a common Thanksgiving Day activity, and communities often hold food drives and host free dinners for the less fortunate.

Parades have also become an integral part of the holiday in cities and towns across the United States. Presented by Macy’s department store since 1924, New York City’s Thanksgiving Day parade is the largest and most famous, attracting some 2 to 3 million spectators along its 2.5-mile route and drawing an enormous television audience. It typically features marching bands, performers, elaborate floats conveying various celebrities and giant balloons shaped like cartoon characters.

Beginning in the mid-20th century and perhaps even earlier, the president of the United States has “pardoned” one or two Thanksgiving turkeys each year, sparing the birds from slaughter and sending them to a farm for retirement. A number of U.S. governors also perform the annual turkey pardoning ritual.

Although the American concept of Thanksgiving developed in the colonies of New England, its roots can be traced back to the other side of the Atlantic. Both the Separatists who came over on the Mayflower and the Puritans who arrived soon after brought with them a tradition of providential holidays—days of fasting during difficult or pivotal moments and days of feasting and celebration to thank God in times of plenty.

As an annual celebration of the harvest and its bounty, moreover, Thanksgiving falls under a category of festivals that spans cultures, continents and millennia. In ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest. Thanksgiving also bears a resemblance to the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. Finally, historians have noted that Native Americans had a rich tradition of commemorating the fall harvest with feasting and merrymaking long before Europeans set foot on their shores.

Thursday, November 27, Thanksgiving Day, Everywhere

Click here to see more events in New Hampshire!


Ten Ways to Teach Your Kids to Give Back this Holiday Season

1.    Support the Troops

Cards and letters from back home are some of the most important gifts you could send to our troops. Besides putting a smile on a soldier's face, this is also a great opportunity to help your child learn to write a letter. Plus, it doesn't cost a thing (other than domestic postage) if you mail it to an organization like SKIP to send to a soldier for you. SKIP's mailing address is: Special Kindness In Packages, Inc., P.O. Box 276, East Bridgewater, MA 02333.

The United Service Organizations (USO) also offers various drives for soldiers. Sponsor the cost of a phone call home or call your local USO division to find out how you might help directly.

2.    Invite Someone Over

Know of a lonely relative? A neighbor far from home? A student unable to go home for the holidays? Consider offering up a seat at your dinner table this Thanksgiving. And don’t forget to ask your children to help you with the shopping list.

3.    Visit a Retirement Home

Retirement homes are likely to have at least some residents who won't see family members during Thanksgiving. Determine what visiting hours are first, and have your child pick out a small gift or make a decoration to bring along if you so desire — or simply give the gift of good conversation.

4.    Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen

Soup kitchens see an influx of volunteers during the holidays, but it's important to remember that hunger is a year-round problem. Still, most soup kitchens are grateful for the extra volunteers. Call local churches or check out Homeless Shelter Directory to find local shelters, pantries and soup kitchens.

5.    Donate to Food Banks

Chances are, you have extra cans of food in your pantry right now. Go look. Now consider donating those cans. First, find a local food bank, then determine what it needs. Think outside the box: Sometimes pantries are in need of non-edible supplies, like soap and toothbrushes.  The next time you are at the grocery store with your kids, ask them to imagine what children their age might want and pick one or two canned goods to donate to a Thanksgiving food drive or a food bank.

6.    Respect Your Elders

Look for opportunities to volunteer as a family. Devote time to neighbors or other family members by scheduling a group project to rake leaves for an elderly relative or cook a meal for someone who's under the weather.

Meals on Wheels delivers daily more than 1 million meals to the home-bound, and many of those served by the program are elderly. According to data collected by Meals on Wheels, the number of food-insecure senior citizens increased by 88 percent between 2001-2011. The organization is always looking for volunteers.

7.    Visit a Hospital

Hospitals don't take a break for the holidays. Call your local hospital to find out if it will accept volunteers for Thanksgiving. Offer to distribute food, bring small gifts to children or elderly, or simply sit and visit with someone. Ask your kids to pick out a gift they think a kid like them would love.

8.    Click a Button

Can't get away from home this Thanksgiving? You can give gifts of individual food items, feed a family for several weeks, or even organize a virtual food drive through www.feedingamerica.org.

9.    Find Time for Four-Legged Friends

Take your son or daughter to an animal shelter to volunteer for a day, or sign up to volunteer once a week to spread the love throughout the year. PetFinder.com is one resource for people who want to learn how to volunteer with — or donate to — animal shelters. It even offers information on how to foster needy animals.

10. Embrace “Giving Tuesday”

After Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday this year, take Tuesday off from your looming holiday to-do list, and help raise funds and awareness for a charitable cause dear to your heart. Whether it is donating to a non-profit organization like Every Child Matters in NH, volunteering in your community, or spreading awareness via social media, your efforts will embrace the true spirit of the season.

Thank you for all that you do every day of the year for the children and families in our state. 

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Every Child Matters!

MaryLou Beaver
New Hampshire Director
Every Child Matters Education Fund





You can help win the fight for our kids by making a tax-deductible donation to ECM in any amount at www.everychildmatters.org.

Every Child Matters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to make children a national political priority. For more information, visit www.everychildmatters.org
1023 15th St. NW Suite 401 Washington, DC 20005

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