Just a few words about those who believe Thanksgiving celebrates American imperialism. First, the first Thanksgiving was held before there was an “America” or even a Massachusetts or Virginia. The Natives could have wiped out the “Pilgrims” had they chosen to. They didn’t. Then the first official acknowledgement of Thanksgiving by a government was the Continental Congress calling for a day of Thanksgiving to celebrate the victory of the Continental army over the British at Saratoga. You remember Saratoga, it was the battle where Major General Benedict Arnold was wounded and failed to receive the credit due him in the winning of the battle. His bitterness would later turn to treason.
The First formal day of Thanksgiving was declared by George Washington in October, 1789 and it primarily was a Thanksgiving for the Constitution of the United States. Then there was a Thanksgiving in February 1795 and Adams would follow with national days of Thanksgiving in 1798 and ’99. Jefferson, a deist, declined to declare any days for Thanksgiving during his terms not wanting to mix religion and secular affairs of government. Other presidents would declare days of Thanksgiving here and there with Lincoln setting the date in 1863 in the middle of the Civil War for those states not in rebellion. One should remember that in 1863 the Union had its two greatest victories of the war, Gettysburg and Vicksburg, which would occur on the same day in July. It was just and proper that a national day of thanksgiving should be observed.
Things would continue until President Franklin Roosevelt would meddle with the actual day of Thanksgiving settling, due to public pressure, on the last Thursday in November. He made this decision in 1941 and the first settled date for Thanksgiving was held exactly ten days before we would be dragged into the Second World War.
Arguably the first Thanksgiving date has been set in 1619 and that Thanksgiving was to observe the survival of the past winter, a bountiful harvest and to implore God for sustenance through the coming winter. There is nothing imperialistic anywhere in the celebration of Thanksgiving. History is history and to want it to be different is simply wishful thinking. There are those who call for the return of the land to the tribes from whom it was taken. But which tribe for the tribes themselves were imperialistic looking to increase their land and slaves. Yes, the Native American tribes had slaves and they engaged in many massacres of other tribes. Why, then should we celebrate their cultures over others? In the history of man conquest through battle and migration has changed the cultural landscapes. The cultural landscape of the United States has changed and is changing. Will people in the future call for the return of the land to the Europeans who once held sway or will they understand the forces of history.
Will those people see a day for Thanksgiving for what it has become: a day for individuals and families to be thankful for what they have and to watch a little football.