In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. 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.
Thanksgiving at Plymouth
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.
Check out the Thanksgiving by the Numbers infographic for more facts about how the first Thanksgiving compares to modern holiday traditions.
Thanksgiving Becomes an Official Holiday
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. Roosevelt moved 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.
For some scholars, the jury is still out on whether the feast at Plymouth really constituted the first Thanksgiving in the United States. Indeed, historians have recorded other ceremonies of thanks among European settlers in North America that predate the Pilgrims’ celebration. In 1565, for instance, the Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilé invited members of the local Timucua tribe to a dinner in St. Augustine, Florida, after holding a mass to thank God for his crew’s safe arrival. On December 4, 1619, when 38 British settlers reached a site known as Berkeley Hundred on the banks of Virginia’s James River, they read a proclamation designating the date as “a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”
Some Native Americans and others take issue with how the Thanksgiving story is presented to the American public, and especially to schoolchildren. In their view, the traditional narrative paints a deceptively sunny portrait of relations between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people, masking the long and bloody history of conflict between Native Americans and European settlers that resulted in the deaths of millions. Since 1970, protesters have gathered on the day designated as Thanksgiving at the top of Cole’s Hill, which overlooks Plymouth Rock, to commemorate a “National Day of Mourning.” Similar events are held in other parts of the country.
Thanksgiving’s Ancient Origins
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.
Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day–a common misunderstanding, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Memorial Day (the fourth Monday in May) honors American service members who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle, while Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans–living or dead–but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.
Veterans Day Facts
In 1954, President Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed by Congress, which moved the celebration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. The law went into effect in 1971, but in 1975 President Ford returned Veterans Day to November 11, due to the important historical significance of the date.
Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the veterans of World Wars I and II on or near November 11th: Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain has Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday of November). In Europe, Britain and the Commonwealth countries it is common to observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. every November 11.
The brave men and women who serve and protect the U.S. come from all walks of life; they are parents, children and grandparents. They are friends, neighbors and coworkers, and an important part of their communities. Here are some facts about the current veteran population of the United States.
9.2 million veterans are over the age of 65.
1.9 million veterans are under the age of 35.
1.8 million veterans are women.
7.8 million veterans served during the Vietnam War era (1964-1975), which represents 33% of all living veterans.
5.2 million veterans served during the Gulf War (representing service from Aug. 2, 1990, to present).
2.6 million veterans served during World War II (1941-1945).
2.8 million veterans served during the Korean War (1950-1953).
6 million veterans served in peacetime.
As of 2008, 2.9 million veterans received compensation for service-connected disabilities.
5 states have more than 1 million veterans in among their population: California (2.1 million), Florida (1.7 million), Texas (1.7 million), New York (1 million) and Pennsylvania (1 million).
The VA health care system had 54 hospitals in 1930, since then it has expanded to include 171 medical centers; more than 350 outpatient, community, and outreach clinics; 126 nursing home care units; and 35 live-in care facilities for injured or disabled vets.
Cleaning Tip – Metal Cleaners
Although many metal polishes make broad claims, it’s most likely you’ll get the best result from specialty products designed for a particular metal surface.
Brass and copper can be cleaned with commercial cleaners available in the supermarket. Some of these products must be washed off thoroughly, because they can stain or etch metals if left in contact with them. Others may be wiped or rubbed off. It is a good idea to use a wipe-off polish for objects that can’t be readily rinsed or submerged. Some wipe-off brands may produce a better shine. Wash-off products, however, require less elbow grease to remove tarnish. for objects that may be only thinly coated with brass or copper, use a cloth dipped in a mixture of dishwashing liquid and water. Before ant polish can work, the metal surface must be free of any lacquer. Clean, but do not attempt to polish, any metal that has a lacquered finish. For an inexpensive and handy homemade cleaner for copper and brass pots, you can use lemon and salt. Cut a lemon in half, sprinkle it with salt, and rub it on copper and brass pots to remove tarnish and restore its sheen.
One type of silver-care product removes tarnish and polishes, and it also treats silver with chemicals that retard further tarnish. Another variety cleans and polishes but doesn’t claim to retard tarnishing. Both types of products include a mild abrasive. You rub on the polish, wipe it off, and then buff the finish to the shine you want. There are also one-way products that come in liquid form and are used for cleaning only. They don’t require tedious rubbing to remove tarnish. you just dip the silver in them or spread them onto silver surfaces. Acidic dip cleaners, as a class, have some inherent hazards. Wear plastic or rubber gloves to protect your hands while cleaning, since the cleaner may irritate skin. Be careful not to get any cleaner in your eyes. Since excessive inhalation of their sulfide fumes may be disagreeable and may cause headaches, these cleaners should be used only where there is good ventilation. Rinse silver thoroughly after cleaning with acidic dip products. Three-way products may be higher-priced than others, but they are preferable because they do the job of polishing well, and their tarnish retardant ensures you can wait longer before you need to repolish. Dip cleaners work fast, but you may still need to use a polish afterward, so you’re doing the job twice.
Daylight Saving Time has been used in the U.S. and in many European countries since World War I. At that time, in an effort to conserve fuel needed to produce electric power, Germany and Austria took time by the forelock, and began saving daylight at 11:00 p.m. on April 30, 1916, by advancing the hands of the clock one hour until the following October. Other countries immediately adopted this 1916 action: Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Turkey, and Tasmania. Nova Scotia and Manitoba adopted it as well, with Britain following suit three weeks later, on May 21, 1916. In 1917, Australia and Newfoundland began saving daylight.
The plan was not formally adopted in the U.S. until 1918. ‘An Act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States‘ was enacted on March 19, 1918. [See law]It both established standard time zones and set summer DST to begin on March 31, 1918. Daylight Saving Time was observed for seven months in 1918 and 1919. After the War ended, the law proved so unpopular (mostly because people rose earlier and went to bed earlier than people do today) that it was repealed in 1919 with a Congressional override of President Wilson’s veto. Daylight Saving Time became a local option, and was continued in a few states, such as Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and in some cities, such as New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago.
During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt instituted year-round Daylight Saving Time, called “War Time,” from February 9, 1942 to September 30, 1945. [See law] From 1945 to 1966, there was no federal law regarding Daylight Saving Time, so states and localities were free to choose whether or not to observe Daylight Saving Time and could choose when it began and ended. This understandably caused confusion, especially for the broadcasting industry, as well as for railways, airlines, and bus companies. Because of the different local customs and laws, radio and TV stations and the transportation companies had to publish new schedules every time a state or town began or ended Daylight Saving Time.
On January 4, 1974, President Nixon signed into law the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973. Then, beginning on January 6, 1974, implementing the Daylight Saving Time Energy Act, clocks were set ahead. On October 5, 1974, Congress amended the Act, and Standard Time returned on October 27, 1974. Daylight Saving Time resumed on February 23, 1975 and ended on October 26, 1975.
Inconsistent use in the U.S.
In the early 1960s, observance of Daylight Saving Time was quite inconsistent, with a hodgepodge of time observances, and no agreement about when to change clocks. The Interstate Commerce Commission, the nation’s timekeeper, was immobilized, and the matter remained deadlocked. Many business interests were supportive of standardization, although it became a bitter fight between the indoor and outdoor theater industries. The farmers, however, were opposed to such uniformity. State and local governments were a mixed bag, depending on local conditions.
Efforts at standardization were encouraged by a transportation industry organization, the Committee for Time Uniformity. They surveyed the entire nation, through questioning telephone operators as to local time observances, and found the situation was quite confusing. Next, the Committee’s goal was a strong supportive story on the front page of the New York Times. Having rallied the general public’s support, the Time Uniformity Committee’s goal was accomplished, but only after discovering and disclosing that on the 35-mile stretch of highway (Route 2) between Moundsville, W.V., and Steubenville, Ohio, every bus driver and his passengers had to endure seven time changes!
The Uniform Time Act
By 1966, some 100 million Americans were observing Daylight Saving Time based on their local laws and customs. Congress decided to step in and end the confusion, and to establish one pattern across the country. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 (15 U.S. Code Section 260a) [see law], signed into Public Law 89-387 on April 12, 1966, by President Lyndon Johnson, created Daylight Saving Time to begin on the last Sunday of April and to end on the last Sunday of October. Any State that wanted to be exempt from Daylight Saving Time could do so by passing a state law.
The Uniform Time Act of 1966 established a system of uniform (within each time zone) Daylight Saving Time throughout the U.S. and its possessions, exempting only those states in which the legislatures voted to keep the entire state on standard time.
In 1972, Congress revised the law to provide that, if a state was in two or more time zones, the state could exempt the part of the state that was in one time zone while providing that the part of the state in a different time zone would observe Daylight Saving Time. The Federal law was amended in 1986 to begin Daylight Saving Time on the first Sunday in April.
Under legislation enacted in 1986, Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. began at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and ended at 2:00 a.m. on the last Sunday of October.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 extended Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. beginning in 2007, though Congress retained the right to revert to the 1986 law should the change prove unpopular or if energy savings are not significant. Going from 2007 forward, Daylight Saving Time in the U.S.
begins at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and