A story of unusual thanksgiving

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Happy Thanksgiving.

This year’s holiday is more normal than last year’s, before the Covid vaccines arrived. But it is still uncommon for many families, with a combination of antigen tests, outdoor meals (weather permitting) and underlying anxiety.

With that in mind, my colleagues and I compiled a brief history of the Thanksgiving celebration since the 1850s, focusing on unusual years like this. Further down in today’s newsletter you will also find last minute cooking tips, suggestions for holiday TV and more.

No matter how you spend your day, we hope it will be good. We would especially like to thank two groups of people: first, to everyone who works today (including our colleagues who publish The Times and deliver the printed edition); and secondly to all of you – the readers of The Morning. We’re grateful for taking the time of your day for this newsletter.

The first appearance of the word “thanksgiving” in The Times’ digital archives – dating back to 1851 – did not refer to the holiday. It was instead a reference on October 4, 1851, to “an appropriate prayer and thanksgiving” from a pastor at the inauguration of Queens County’s annual agricultural exhibit.

“Thursday was a real anniversary in the pleasant village of Jamaica, Long Island,” an unnamed reporter for The New York Daily Times wrote. “The peasants’ reddish, masculine appearance and freshness, the delicacy and the real natural loveliness of their wives and daughters (for whom the county is rightly known) were sights to cheer and amaze the citizen, and many were there to witness and enjoy them. ”

The first mention of the holiday occurred less than a week later, in a short news reported that the governor of Massachusetts had declared Thursday, November 27, 1851, “a day of public thanksgiving and praise.” There was no national Thanksgiving weekend at that time.

As other states announced when they would also celebrate the holiday that year, The Times printed an infographic – of dubious value – October 31, 1851:

The original story of Thanksgiving that is often told at school – about a friendly meal between pilgrims and Indians – is incorrect. (As far back as 1974, The Times ran an article describes the holiday as a “national day of mourning” for many natives.)

The real origin of the national holiday goes to Abraham Lincoln. On October 3, 1863, he called on the country, “in the midst of a civil war of unparalleled magnitude and severity,” to set aside the last Thursday in November as “a day of thanksgiving.” The times published its proclamation of thanksgiving on the front page and several times thereafter.

While reciting the nation’s many blessings — a productive economy, abundant harvests, and a growing economy — Lincoln also recommended that Americans thank “with humble remorse for our national perversion and disobedience.”

Lincoln’s announcement was in part a response to Sarah Josepha Hale, an editor who had spent decades campaigning for a national day of gratitude.

Like this year’s version, Thanksgiving 1918 occurred in the midst of a global pandemic. But the atmosphere was surprisingly happy. World War I ended on November 11 and the country celebrated, despite a terrible number of deaths from the flu in October. In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, the Times’ articles contained relatively few mentions of the so-called Spanish flu.

“Thanksgiving Day this year will evoke a deeper gratitude, a spirit of reverence more devoted, than America has felt in many years,” a Times leader on November 19 sa.

One factor may have been the pandemic briefly decreased in November before increasing again at the end of the year. As has happened in the last two years, a virus ebbed out and flowed out in mysterious ways.

In 1930, the country’s mood was much darker. A front-page headline on Thanksgiving Day that year reported: “450 tons of food is given to the needy, but supply is scarce.” Police turned away elderly men and women to reserve food for families with young children.

The Times reported that as well The Thanksgiving tradition with ragamuffins – where children would dress up and walk from door to door and ask for coins or treats – seemed to be fading in Manhattan. “Things are not as they used to be,” said a police officer.

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to boost the economy by moving Thanksgiving a week earlier, to create a longer Christmas shopping season. Critics mocked the policy as “Franksgiving”, and it failed. Roosevelt announced in 1941 that he would abandon the experiment for next year.

Roosevelt eventually settled on the fourth Thursday of the month – a middle ground that ensured that the holiday would not occur later than November 28 and that Christmas shopping could always begin in November.

Thanksgiving 1963 came just six days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and most public celebrations were canceled. The Macy’s parade was an exception, The Times reported, as organizers saw it as “a disappointment for millions of children.”

The Kennedy family gathered at the family site in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, but they skipped their regular football game. “Like millions of other Americans, they will give over the day to the children and together mourn their loss,” The Times said wrote.

The Covid-19 pandemic undoubtedly caused a greater break in the Thanksgiving traditions than anything that came before. Since Lincoln’s proclamation, even during war, depression, and tragedy, most Americans still found ways to gather with family and friends for a holiday meal.

But the threat of a pandemic – better understood in 2020 than it had been in 1918 – made many people stay at home last year.

Today will be different. The pandemic is not over, but the worst of it is almost certain. Vaccines have made it possible for most Americans to gather safely.

The country is hardly in a happy mood. Although people are happy to be together again, many are mourning the losses of the last two years and are deeply concerned about the country’s future. But mixed feelings are also part of the Thanksgiving tradition, all the way back to Lincoln’s announcement.

More about the holiday: For Rafael Alvarez – a writer for “The Wire” – it is today a chance to remember his father’s pen knife and his parents’ Baltimore dreams.

Rich: Kanye West created a jacket for Gap. It makes you look famous.

Ranking: Vote for the best book the last 125 years.

Ethical questions: What should a reader do with a great legacy?

Lived life: Margo Guryan recorded an album in the 1960s, but it did not find an audience until the late 1990s. “People say I’ve been rediscovered,” she said. “It’s not true – I have been discovered.” Guryan died at the age of 84.

Last year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade lacked its typical festivities. Due to the pandemic, there were no spectators, the route stretched over only a block and thousands of fewer participants marched.

This year, the parade is almost all the way back: About 6,500 people will work with it, up from 960 last year. The number of giant balloons and floats is back to about what it was two years ago. And 10 marching bands, many of which could not travel last year, will fill the streets.

There is a warning: No children under 12 will participate. Everyone in the parade must be fully vaccinated, but children 5 to 11 were entitled to their first shots just a few weeks ago. (They can still watch, spectators have no vaccination requirement.)

Their absence will be curious in an event whose stars have included Pikachu, SpongeBob SquarePants and Shrek. “This year, the young people waving from the floats will be vaccinated between children and teenagers – so viewers may expect less unadulterated joy and wide-eyed wonder,” writes The Times’ Julia Jacobs.

The televised parade will feature Rockettes, Carrie Underwood, Mickey Guyton, Kristin Chenoweth, Jon Batiste and Nelly. the starts at 9 Eastern, and you can watch it on NBC, Telemundo or the streaming service Peacock. – Sanam Yar, Morning Writer

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