November 23, 2023
This legal holiday in all territories of the United States is a time for giving thanks for the harvest and for the blessings the year has brought. Although the celebration at Plymouth in 1621 is considered the first American thanksgiving observance, the idea was not a new one; harvest festivals and days of thanksgiving had long been observed in many cultures. In his first presidential proclamation on October 3, 1789, President George Washington declared Thursday, November 26, 1789 to be "a day of public thanksgiving and prayer." The first nationwide observance occurred in 1863 during the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation designating the last Thursday of November as a day of national thanksgiving. Since 1863, Thanksgiving has been observed annually in the United States. In 1941 Congress made Thanksgiving Day a federal holiday to be observed on the fourth Thursday of November.
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
- President Abraham Lincoln, Proclamation of Thanksgiving, October 3, 1863
Thursday, November 23, 2023