On Dec. 4, 1619, the first Thanksgiving celebration was held in America at the Berkeley Plantation in Virginia. Thirty-eight English settlers attended the event. It was part of their original charter to set aside one day every year to observe a day of thanksgiving for their annual harvest. Due to hardships and other factors, the annual festivities lasted only one year.
On Dec. 11, 1620, 102 Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. The first winter was brutal. Nearly half died from starvation and illness. The following summer, assisted by friendly Indians, the survivors reaped a bountiful harvest. To show their appreciation, Governor William Bradford invited nearly 100 Indians to join the Pilgrims in a feast of thanksgiving, starting on Dec. 13, 1621, and lasting for three days.
Two years later, the Pilgrims were hit with a drought. One day they gathered to pray for rain. The next morning it started to rain and didn't stop for several days. With the crops saved, Governor Bradford, being the party animal he was, declared another day of thanksgiving. Once again the Indians were invited.
As other settlers arrived to the colonies, they too held their own thanksgiving celebrations, each independent of the other. In 1668, the government decided to get involved, as governments tend to do, declaring Nov. 25 to be Thanksgiving Day. This proclamation lasted only five years.
The first national celebration of Thanksgiving occurred in 1777. It was a one-time event to celebrate the American victory over the British at Saratoga.
In 1789, President George Washington created a proclamation declaring Thanksgiving a national event, to be held on the first Thursday of November. Apparently, the first resident was a party animal too.
John Adams, the second president, moved Thanksgiving from Thursday to the previous Wednesday. Politicians are often meddlesome nitwits who believe that making changes, whether they make sense or not, are a sign of leadership. Later in his tenure, Adams moved it back to Thursday. Not much of a party animal, the third president, Thomas Jefferson, was opposed to Thanksgiving and canceled the national festivities.
Finally, in July of 1863, shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving. Over the next 75 years, every president followed Lincoln's precedent, annually declaring a national Thanksgiving Day. Then in 1941, when Congress had a majority of party animals on hand, Congress permanently established the fourth Thursday of November as a national holiday called Thanksgiving Day.
Thanksgiving is a tradition in my family. Some of last year's activities included:
* Built a pyramid of empty beer cans at halftime of football game.
* Performed the Heimlich maneuver on my nephew to remove a walnut.
* Moved a couch over the spot where the cat threw up to avoid a messy cleanup.
* Debated Uncle Earl about the impact of global free trade on weather patterns in Oklahoma.
* Wrestled with my brother to see who got the wishbone.
* Set up the Christmas tree after dinner in anticipation of the next holiday in line.
* Took a short nap -- all of us except for Uncle Earl who kept debating by himself.
* Wrestled with my brother to see who got stuck driving crazy Aunt Edna to the airport.
* Scanned the Internet, looking for a list of symptoms of salmonella.
Thanksgiving is an occasion to thank Mother Earth for blessing you with a bountiful harvest and to thank Father Time for allowing you to enjoy life for another year. Life is a precious experience. Be thankful for all the joy and sorrow it brings -- for without sorrow, there would be no joy. * * *