The American Thanksgiving Day began in Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, in 1621, and celebrated the Pilgrims’ first year’s harvest. Originally set by president Abraham Lincoln as the last Thursday of November, the holiday was changed by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 to the fourth Thursday of November.
Actually, days of thanksgiving are far older than our American can celebration, which is an adaption of Lammas (Loaf Mass Day). In Britain, it was celebrated on August 1, when the wheat crop was good. In fact, most agricultural peoples have special days set aside to celebrate a good crop and the end of the harvest-usually referred to as the Harvest Home. Our modern Thanksgiving is a combination of two very different customs: toms: the harvest home feast and a formal day of thanksgiving proclaimed by community leaders to celebrate a victory.
It was during the Revolutionary War that the need for national holidays, rather than local holidays, developed. It was George Washington that first declared November 1, as a national day of thanksgiving. But regional traditions were too strong and the day never caught on. With the Industrial Revolution and hundreds of immigrants pouring into America, the need for a national day of thanksgiving was once more addressed. It was finally during the Civil War that President Lincoln, in an effort to unite the country, declared the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day. The holiday began with the usual morning ing church service, followed by a feast and then games.
Today we celebrate Thanksgiving with parades, the largest being Macy’s New York display, which began in 1927 with the appearance of Macy’s huge balloons designed by puppeteer Tony Sarg. The construction of the balloons is carefully executed by the Goodyear Aerospace Corporation, in Akron, Ohio. Preparations for the parade are year round, reaching a peak the day before Thanksgiving when the balloons arrive at 77th Street and Central Park West. They are removed from their crates and anchored with sand bags and giant nets. On Thanksgiving Day, more than 2000 of Macy’s employees arrive at 6 a.m. to march in the parade, which, 75 years later, is still the highlight of Thanksgiving Day.
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