When shopping in October, we commonly see Halloween and Christmas decorations displayed on the same aisles. Black Friday marketing begins well before the designated day. In this push to “buy,” one of our most important American holidays, Thanksgiving, feels overshadowed. We believe, though, that Thanksgiving merits more consideration; so this year’s message shares some of the American history behind this magnificent holiday.
The 400th anniversary of the American Thanksgiving comes up very soon. Resolving the actual year of the anniversary is somewhat of a contest between two states. Most of us grew up learning that the first Thanksgiving happened in Massachusetts in 1621 as early settlers and Native Americans celebrated together and gave thanks to God for a life-saving harvest. Virginians claim the first Thanksgiving in 1619, when a small cadre of English settlers gave thanks for a safe arrival in the New World after a harrowing voyage.
The debate over where and when Thanksgiving first took place continued for more than 350 years, and presidential interest in Thanksgiving goes back to some of the momentous periods in American history. In 1789, before there was a formal holiday, President George Washington called on the fledgling country to give thanks for achieving liberty and safety as an American nation free of foreign rule. In 1863, as our nation again faced a questionable future, young men were at civil war, families grieved losses and feared more, and enslaved Americans dared to believe their freedom might finally be near, President Abraham Lincoln declared a formal Thanksgiving holiday to give thanks for the possibility of a unified nation at the end of the conflict.
President John F. Kennedy issued Proclamation 3560 on November 5, 1963, in an effort to reach a compromise between the regional claims. His proclamation stated, “Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time of thanksgiving. On the appointed day, they gave reverent thanks for their safety, for the health of their children, for the fertility of their fields, for the love which bound them together, and for the faith which united them with their God.”
The argument about Thanksgiving was between two Protestant branches, and President Kennedy was Catholic, which made his intervention particularly interesting. His proclamation was also an especially sincere and meaningful gesture on which his family remarked after his tragic assassination just 17 days later in Dallas.
This rich history, rooted in some of the most tenuous moments in our nation’s past, deserves our taking time to reflect on just how blessed we all are. We are free and live in a wonderful country where our children can rise to any success, regardless of their station at birth. We love and are loved by families that see our best. We are guarded by men and women in uniform who will think of home on the holiday, but instead observe Thanksgiving from the deck of a ship, under the ocean in a submarine, inside a tank or an aircraft, or maybe on a field of battle. We are tremendously blessed to have this life at this moment.
We all treasure our own traditions, but in our part of the country, great food seems a common bond that can bring us together. Around tables spread with secret family recipes and new-found favorites, we find welcoming places where we can forget differences, remember likenesses, and make our relationships matter more.
This Thanksgiving, we hope everyone can put the rush on pause, slow down and sit down with the people they truly cherish. If you can’t be with your immediate family, call them. Call, too, the family members and friends you haven’t seen in a long time who may have shown extraordinary kindnesses to you or your family in the past.
Thanks and compassion
Thanksgiving is about gratitude and caring. At home, work, and wherever we can, let’s tell the people who make our lives better how much they mean to us. As we count our own blessings, reach out to others who find the holidays tough. Remember and include military families with loved ones deployed; folks alone or missing family no longer here; people coping with illness and caregivers tending their needs; and those for whom a hot meal is a luxury any day of the year.
At our organization, we value and thank the clients whose confidence keeps us strong and the communities that allow us to grow with them. We’re especially grateful for our associates who serve with a commitment to a century-old culture deeply rooted in core values. Thank you for the privilege you provide us by being part of our financial services family.
May this Thanksgiving bring you and yours a happy, peaceful break to celebrate thanks for what means the most to you. May God bless you and your families and grant you safety and health this very special holiday.