Thanksgiving Holiday Was Invented by the Author of ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ – Not the Pilgrims

61964-004-D4CDCF03Thanksgiving wasn’t even about the Pilgrims  – or even a holiday – until the 19th century.

Via the Washington Post:

In 1789, George Washington declared Thursday, Nov. 26, a Thanksgiving holiday, but only for that year, and it wasn’t connected to the Pilgrim feast but rather intended as a “public thanksgiving and prayer” devoted to “the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”

Enter a 19th-century author, poet and magazine editor named Sarah Josepha Hale. She was editor of the influential Godey’s Lady’s Book for 40 years, from 1837 to 1877, when she was nearly 90 years old. She and her husband David Hale had five children, and when he died in 1822, she wore black for the rest of her life. Hale was an education advocate and, through the magazine she edited, became a famous figure in the country who set fashion, reading and cooking trends. Washington Irving Jr., Nathaniel Hawthorne and Oliver Wendell Holmes were among the authors who published work in her magazine. She was also a prolific author, writing dozens of novels and books of poetry, and penned (or co-penned, according to one account) the famous “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” which was published in 1830.

Hale, who was highly patriotic, read about the 1621 feast of the Pilgrims and became captivated with the idea of turning it into a national holiday. She published in the Godey’s Lady’s Book recipes for turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie and started traditions that had nothing to do with the colonists. She began a lobbying campaign to persuade President Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving an official annual holiday, using her magazine to build public support by writing an editorial every year starting in 1846. She also sent letters to all governors in the United States and territories. In 1863, Lincoln did set Thanksgiving as an official holiday to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November every year.

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9 Comments on "Thanksgiving Holiday Was Invented by the Author of ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ – Not the Pilgrims"

  1. Anarchy Pony | Nov 28, 2013 at 2:23 pm |

    Wow Matt, it’s like you’ve issued a Fatwa against Thanksgiving.

    • Eric_D_Read | Nov 28, 2013 at 4:01 pm |

      Goggle gobble Akbar!

    • Matt Staggs | Nov 29, 2013 at 11:37 am |

      Ha ha, yeah. I thought that this kind of thing was more in keeping with the Disinfo vibe, although personally, I really don’t enjoy Thanksgiving. Too much food, too many people, and very little of the overtly pagan character of the other holidays. I ended up with a migraine yesterday and went to bed mid-afternoon. If I had my wishes I’d burn a Wicker Man in my backyard every Thanksgiving.

      • Anarchy Pony | Nov 29, 2013 at 12:27 pm |

        Well, fall post-harvest feasting is a fairly ancient practice that reaches back before christianization, and the quality of one’s family certainly does affect the character of one’s thanksgiving. Mine are usually alright as I don’t have any obnoxious wingnuts in my immediate family, just some strange Greek Orthodox (not actually ethnically Greek either, figure that one out) relatives, but their christiness aside they’re still pleasant to be around.
        And I can always dig a good reminder of the atrocities visited on the aboriginal population, as opposed to the silent ignorance of it exhibited by the media.

  2. Cortacespedes | Nov 28, 2013 at 6:40 pm |

    So I guess a “modernization” name change wouldn’t be out of the question? Something a bit more “in the spirit” and perhaps truthful.

    Like Black Thursday or Postprandial Somnolence Day or Hang Out With Relatives You Barely Know Day.

    Who’s happy they slept right thru it? Yeah, ME! I am alone and it’s quiet!!! Everybody is at work. Some days it pays to work nights.

    Perhaps we should just move the September holiday to today and call it Labor Day.

  3. emperorreagan | Nov 28, 2013 at 8:57 pm |

    My thanks go to Manannán mac Lir.

    • Cortacespedes | Nov 28, 2013 at 9:33 pm |

      So, in lieu of turkey, you had ham; an oddly regenerating honeybaked.

      No matter how much was spun from the spiral cut, and sent home with various guests, you were never any closer to the end of the bone.

      You’ll be feeding people well into the new year, I predict.

  4. Let’s start a holiday where instead of being thankful for what you have, you’re bitter and resentful about all of the things you’ve been denied in life.

    • Cortacespedes | Nov 28, 2013 at 9:35 pm |

      In our family, that holiday is called “Christmas”; and if one is particularly adept at their “Grinchery” you can spin it right into New Years Day.

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