A Story of Thanksgiving and Politics

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A Story of Thanksgiving and Politics

Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good – Maya Angelou, Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer.

Knowing the Thanksgiving holiday was coming soon, I have been asking people to tell me for what they are most thankful.  It surprised me how many said “I am thankful that the 2016 presidential election is over.”

Wow.  It was that rough. Thinking of that recalled a story about politics and Thanksgiving that caused me to giggle.  It’s nice to remember that what we have just experienced is not the only political fight that’s been fought in this democratic country.  Rancor can even occur over Thanksgiving.

It seems Abraham Lincoln’s successors as president followed his example of annually declaring the final Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving.

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt broke with this tradition.  November had five Thursdays that year (instead of the more common four).  Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday as Thanksgiving rather than the fifth one. With the country still in the midst of the Great Depression, Roosevelt thought an earlier Thanksgiving would give merchants a longer period to sell goods before Christmas.  At the time, advertising goods for Christmas before Thanksgiving was considered inappropriate.

Fred Lazarus, Jr., founder of Federated Department Stores (later Macy’s), is credited with convincing Roosevelt to push Thanksgiving to a week earlier to expand the shopping season.

Well, Republicans (per Wikipedia) fought the change, calling it an affront to the memory of Lincoln.  People began referring to November 30 as the “Republican Thanksgiving” and November 23 as the “Democratic Thanksgiving”.

Since a presidential declaration of Thanksgiving Day was not legally binding, Roosevelt’s change was widely disregarded.  Twenty-three (23) states went along with Roosevelt’s recommendation, and twenty-two (22) did not.  Some, like Texas, could not decide and took both days as government holidays!

In December of 1941, President Roosevelt signed a bill sent over from both houses of Congress requiring that Thanksgiving be observed annually on the fourth Thursday of November, which was usually the last Thursday, and occasionally the next to last.  This made the matter of the Thanksgiving date a matter of federal law.

For several years, some states continued to observe the last Thursday date in years with five November Thursdays.  Texas did this as late as 1956.

There you go.  Opinions of the states were divided almost half and half – twenty-three with Roosevelt and twenty-two against his recommendation.

America’s independent voters and citizens can be contrary as everyone tries to “right” the Ship of State.  That is a phenomenon that is not new this year!  My advice is to laugh and to be thankful for our wonderful country.

Have a wonderful time Thursday, and remember what Erma Bombeck said,  “Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.”

It is my pleasure to conclude today’s column with a paraphrase from a much longer poem written a few Thanksgivings ago by Byrd & Byrd good friend, Rosemary Allender, Geriatric Care Manager extraordinaire.  In the poem, as she prepares to join family, she remembers previous holidays shared with parents who are no longer present at the Thanksgiving table:

“For it is through our actions, not our thoughts, that we have the power to show those who love us that – no matter what might be lurking around the corner, there is a fundamental need to be able to reach out to those round this Thanksgiving table, and acknowledge that with our family, friends and enduring faith, our tears and fears will turn into acts of caring, sharing and grace.”

Thank you, readers.  I wish everyone a blessed holiday – the kind that makes forever memories.

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