Monday, November 29, 2021

A Brief Overview of Hanukkah



Photo by Lawrence Peskin, History Professor at Morgan State University in Baltimore

Hanukkah, (Hebrew: “Dedication”) also called Festival of Lights, or Feast of the Maccabees, Judaism festival that begins on Kislev 25, the Judaism calendar, & is celebrated for 8 days. Hanukkah reaffirms the ideals of Judaism & commemorates in particular the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem by the lighting of candles on each day of the festival. Although not mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures, Hanukkah came to be widely celebrated & remains one of the most popular Judaism religious observances. 

Origin & History

Hanukkah commemorates the Maccabean (Hasmonean) victories over the forces of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175–164 BCE) & the rededication of the Temple on Kislev 25, 164 BCE. Led by Mattathias & his son Judas Maccabeus (died c. 161 BCE), the Maccabees were the first Jews who fought to defend their religious beliefs rather than their lives. According to I Maccabees, a text of the Apocrypha (writings excluded from the Judaismcanon but included in the Roman Catholic & Eastern Orthodox Old Testament canons), Antiochus had invaded Judaea, tried to Hellenize the Jews, & desecrated the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Following the Judaism victory in a three-year struggle against Antiochus, Judas ordered the cleansing & restoration of the Temple. After it was purified, a new altar was installed & dedicated on Kislev 25. Judas then proclaimed that the dedication of the restored Temple should be celebrated every year for eight days beginning on that date. In II Maccabees the celebration is compared to the festival of Sukkoth (the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths), which the Jews were unable to celebrate because of the invasion of Antiochus. Hanukkah, therefore, emerged as a celebration of the dedication, as the word itself suggests.

Although the traditional practice of lighting candles at Hanukkah was not established in the books of the Maccabees, the custom most likely started relatively early. The practice is enshrined in the Talmud (Shabbat 21b), which describes the miracle of the oil in the Temple. According to the Talmud, when Judas Maccabeus entered the Temple, he found only a small jar of oil that had not been defiled by Antiochus. The jar contained only enough oil to burn for one day, but miraculously the oil burned for eight days until new consecrated oil could be found, establishing the precedent that the festival should last eight days. The early date for this story or at least the practice of lighting eight candles is confirmed by the debate of the 1st-century-CE scholars Hillel & Shammai. Hillel & his school taught that one candle should be lit on the first night of Hanukkah & one more each night of the festival. Shammai held that all eight candles should be lit the first night, with the number decreasing by one each night thereafter.

The celebration of Hanukkah includes a variety of religious & nonreligious customs. Like Purim, Hanukkah is a joyous festival that lacks the work restrictions characteristic of the major festivals of Rosh Hashana & Yom Kippur.

Menorah

The most important of all Hanukkah traditions is the lighting of the menorah each evening. Also known as the Hanukkah lamp, the menorah recalls the Temple lampstand & is a simple or elaborate candelabra with eight branches plus a holder for the shammash (“servant”) candle that is used to light the other eight candles. One candle is lit on the first evening, & an additional candle is lit on each subsequent evening until eight candles are burning on the last evening. Olive oil was traditionally used for lighting the menorah, but it was replaced by candles, which are inserted in the menorah incrementally each night of the festival from right to left but are lit from left to right. A blessing is also offered while the candles are lit each night. The menorah was originally kindled outside the home, but it was brought inside in ancient times to guard against offending neighbors.

Liturgy & Prayers

The Hanukkah observance is also characterized by the daily reading of Scripture, recitation of some of the Psalms, almsgiving, & singing of a special hymn. The liturgy includes Hallel, public readings from the Torah, & the ʿal ha-nissim (“for the miracles”) prayer. The Scroll of Antiochus, an early medieval account of Hanukkah, is read in some synagogues & homes. Along with the daily prayers, thanks are offered to God for delivering the strong into the hands of the weak & the evil into the hands of the good. The word Hanukkah in Hebrew also means “education,” & rabbis & educators try to instill in their congregants & students the notion that the holiday celebrates Judaism's strengths, perseverance, & continuity.

Hanukkah & other Judaism Religious Rituals depicted in 1707


Hanukkah, Festival of Lights 
These woodcuts illustrate Judaism holiday & ritual observances in the 1707 Minhagim (Customs), published by Solomon Proops, Amsterdam, with descriptions & instructions in Yiddish, offer a glimpse of Judaism life at the end of the 17C & the beginning of the 18C in central Europe.

The woodcuts in the book cover Sabbath & holiday observance, & home & synagogue rituals. Among them area mother blessing the Sabbath lights of a Sabbath oil lamp;a father chanting the Havdalah (service of "separation" at the conclusion of the Sabbath), while he holds a cup of wine by the light of a candle held by a child whose sibling holds a spice box; 4 men blessing the new moon;a rabbi preaching on the Great Sabbath (preceding Passover); grinding flour for & baking matzoh; searching for chametz (leaven); & scouring pots & pans. Also shown are a man having his hair cut on Lag B'Omer--the 33rd day of the 50 between Passover & Shavuot, when restrictions obtaining during that period of mourning are relaxed; Moses on Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments; worshipers seated on the floor on Tisha B'Av, mourning the destruction of the Temple; the sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, the New Year; a man building his tabernacle for the Feast of Tabernacles; the gathering of palms, willows, & myrtle to join the citron in its celebration; children receiving sweets to celebrate the Joy of the Law, Simhat Torah; the kindling of a Hanukkah lamp; & Purim jesters sounding their musical instruments.

The life cycle is also marked: bride & groom under the huppah (canopy); an infant boy entering the Covenant of Abraham; & finally, a body borne in a coffin to its eternal resting place. These are some of the 1707 woodcuts:

Blessing the Sabbath Candles

The Havdalah Service

Sounding the Shofar on Rosh Hashana

The Lulav: Palm Branch, Myrtle, and Willow

The Merry Festival of Purim

Removing the Leaven from the Home

Under the Huppah, the Wedding Service

Brit Milah, the Circumcision

Carrying the Deceased to the Cemetery

Sunday, November 28, 2021

The Christian Advent Wreath

The Advent wreath, or Advent crown, is a Christian tradition that marks the passage of the four weeks of Advent leading to Christmas in the liturgical calendar of the Western church.

The origin of the Advent wreath is uncertain. It is believed that Advent wreaths have their origins in the folk traditions of northern Europe; where in the deep of winter, people lit candles on wheel-shaped bundles of evergreen. It is believed that pagan Mid-Winter rituals sometimes featured a wreath of evergreen with four candles. The candles were placed in each of the four directions to represent the elements of earth, wind, water and fire. Rites were solemnly performed in order to ensure the continuance of the circle of life symbolized by the evergreen wreath.

Like many Church traditions, the use of candles in the late fall and winter was originally a pagan tradition. Rev. William Saunders wrote that “pre-Germanic peoples used wreaths with lit candles during the dark and cold December days as a sign of hope in the future warm and extended sunlight days of spring.” In the middle ages, the Germanic peoples began incorporating a lighted wreath into the Christian season of Advent. It didn’t gain widespread popularity until the 1800s, and it wasn’t until the 1900s, that German immigrants brought the tradition to America.There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreathes with lit candles during the cold & dark December days as a sign of hope in the future warm & extended-sunlight days of Spring. In Scandinavia during Winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, & prayers were offered to the god of light to turn “the wheel of the earth” back toward the sun to lengthen the days & restore warmth. Both the evergreen & the circular shape symbolized ongoing life. The candlelight gave comfort at this darkest time of the year, as people looked forward to the longer days of spring.

By the Middle Ages, the Christians adapted this tradition & used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. By 1600, both Catholics & Lutherans had more formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath.

The wreath is made of various evergreens which are green yeear round. The Advent Wreath is endlessly symbolic. The evergreens in the wreath itself are a reminder of continuous life. The shaping of them into a circle reinforces that meaning. The circle is also a sign of the eternity of God.The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, & the everlasting life found in Christ.

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. In some Christian churches, one purple or blue candle is lit each week, but the Catholic church uses a rose candle on the 3rd Sunday. Purple dyes were once so rare & costly that they were associated with royalty; the Roman Catholic Church has long used this color around Christmas & Easter to honor Jesus. The candles symbolize the prayer, penance, & preparatory sacrifices & goods works undertaken at this time. The light signifies Christ, the Light of the world. Some modern day wreaths include a white candle placed in the middle of the wreath, which represents Christ & is lit on Christmas Eve.

The Christian Advent Calendar

An advent calendar is usually a poster with 24 small doors, one to be opened each day from December 1 until Christmas Eve. Each door conceals a picture. This popular tradition arose in Germany in the late 1800s & soon spread throughout Europe & North America. Originally, the images in Advent calendars were derived from the Hebrew Bible.
The Advent calendar windows open to reveal an image, poem, a portion of a story (such as the story of the Nativity of Jesus) or a small gift, such as a toy or a chocolate item. Some calendars are strictly religious, whereas others are secular in content.
During the 19C in Germany, the days preceding Christmas were marked off from December 1 with chalk on "believers" doors. Then in the late 19C the German mother of a child named Gerhard Lang made her son an Advent Calendar comprised of 24 tiny sweets stuck onto cardboard. Lang never forgot the excitement he felt when he was given his Advent calendar at the beginning of each December, & how it reminded him every day that the greatest celebration of the whole year was approaching ever nearer. 
As an adult, Lang went into partnership with his friend Reichhold opening a printing office. In 1908, they produced what is thought to be the 1st  printed Advent Calendar with a small colored picture for each day in Advent.  Around the same time, a German newspaper included an Advent calendar insert as a gift to its readers. Lang’s calendar was inspired by one that his mother had made for him and featured 24 colored pictures that attached to a piece of cardboard. Lang modified his calendars to include the little doors that are a staple of most Advent.
The idea of the Advent Calendar caught on with other printing firms as the demand swiftly increased, and many versions were produced, some of which would have printed on them Bible verses appropriate to the Advent period.  By the time that the Advent Calendar had gained international popularity, the custom came to an end with the beginning of the WWI, when cardboard was strictly rationed to be used for purposes necessary to the war effort. 
President Eisenhower's grandchildren with an Advent Calendar

However, in 1946, when rationing began to ease following the end of the WWII, a printer named Richard Sellmer once again introduced the colorful little Advent Calendar, and once again it was an immediate success.  After the war, the production of calendars resumed in 1946, by Selmer. Selmer credits President Eisenhower with helping the tradition grow in the United States during his term of office. A newspaper article at the time showed the Eisenhower grandchildren with The Little Town Advent calendar. 

Some European countries such as Germany, where the 1st Advent poster originated, also use a wreath of fir with 24 bags or boxes hanging from it. In each box or bag there is a little present for each day.

Christian Advent - A Brief History

Advent is observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting, self-examination, & preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas. The name Advent comes from the Latin word Adventus, which signifies a coming.

The middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light & birth in the darkest days of winter. Many peoples rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them & they could look forward to longer days & extended hours of sunlight.

Advent has probably been observed since the 4C.  It would seem that Advent could not have occurred, until the Roman Catholic Church & state decided to declare December 25 as the day of the birth of Christ, in 345.  Advent was 1st recorded about 380 AD in Spain.

As far back as the 5C, there existed the custom of giving exhortations to the people in order to prepare them for Christmas. The oldest document, the 2nd book of the History of the Franks by St. Gregory Bishop of Tours (536-594), states that St. Perpetuus, one of his predecessors, had decreed a fast 3 times a week, from the feast of St. Martin until Christmas.  St Perpetuus, who died December 30, 490, was the 6th Bishop of Tours, from 460 to 490. It is unclear whether St. Perpetuus established a new custom, or merely enforced an already existing law.
St Gregory, Bishop of Tours (536-594) & King Chilperic I, from the Grandes Chroniques de France de Charles V, 14C illumination.

In the 4C & 5C, Advent was the preparation for the January "Epiphany" rather than Christmas.  It was also a time for new Christians to be baptized & welcomed into the church, while existing members of the church examined their hearts & focused on penance. Religious leaders exhorted the people to prepare for the feast of Christmas by fasting. Early documents show that many church leaders treated Advent as a 2nd Lent.

The 9th canon of the first Council of Macon, held in 582, ordained that between St. Martin's day & Christmas, the Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays, should be fasting days.  In 567, the 2nd Council of Tours enjoined the monks to fast from the beginning of December till Christmas.

The obligation of observing Advent, which, though introduced so imperceptibly, had by degrees acquired the force of a sacred law, began to be relaxed, & the 40 days from St. Martin's day to Christmas were reduced to 4 weeks.

Sometime in 6C Rome, the focus of Advent shifted to the second coming of Christ. In the 9C, Pope St. Nicholas reduced the duration of Advent from 6 weeks to 4 weeks. The 1st mention of Advent's being reduced to 4 weeks is to be found in a 9C letter of Pope St. Nicholas I to the Bulgarians.

After having reduced the time of the Advent fast, the church seemed to change the mandatory fast into a simple abstinence & required only the clergy to observe this abstinence. The Council of Salisbury, held in 1281, seemed to expect none but monks to keep it. On the other hand Pope Innocent III, mentions that, in France, fasting was uninterruptedly observed during the whole 40 days.

By degrees, the custom of fasting fell into disuse; and in 1362, Pope Urban V asked only that the clerics of his court should keep abstinence during Advent.  In his 4th Council, he enjoins the parish priests to exhort the faithful to go to Communion on the Sundays, at least, of Lent & Advent; & he strongly urges them to fast on the Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays, at least, of each week in Advent.

And finally, sometime in the middle ages--approximately the 1500's--an additional focus on the anticipation before Christ's birth was added to that of His 2nd coming.

Today Advent in most Christian churches begins on the Sunday nearest November 30, & covers 4 Sundays. Because the day it begins changes from year to year, so does the length of each Advent season. 

Saturday, November 27, 2021

The Winter Solstice - 3200 BC Prehistoric Passage Tombs or Monuments

Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland

Newgrange is a prehistoric structure in County Meath, Ireland.  It was built during the Neolithic period around 3200 BC, making it older than Stonehenge & the Egyptian pyramids.  According to carbon-14 dates, it is about 500 years older than the current form of Stonehenge, and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, as well as predating the Mycenaean culture of ancient Greece.  The site consists of a large circular mound with a stone passageway & interior chambers. The mound has a retaining wall at the front & is ringed by engraved kerbstones. 
Entrance to Newgrange in Ireland in  1905, when the mound had become largely overgrown.

Newgrange contains various examples of abstract Neolithic rock art carved onto it. These carvings fit into 10 categories, 5 of which are curvilinear (circles, spirals, arcs, serpentiniforms & dot-in-circles) and the other 5 of which are rectilinear (chevrons, lozenges, radials, parallel lines & offsets). There is no agreement among archaeologist & historians about what the site was used for, but it has been speculated that it had religious significance – it is aligned with the rising sun & its light floods the chamber on the winter solstice.
Entrance to Newgate in Ireland today

A passage grave or tomb or monument consists of a narrow passage made of large stones & one or multiple burial? chambers covered in earth or stone. The building of passage tombs usually dates from the Neolithic Age.  Those with more than one chamber may have multiple sub-chambers leading off from a main chamber.  One common layout, the cruciform passage grave, is cross-shaped.  Not all passage graves have been found to contain evidence of human remains. One such example is Maeshowe in Scotland.  Maeshowe is a Neolithic chambered passage monument or grave situated on Mainland, Orkney, Scotland.  It was probably built around 2800 BCE.  Megalithic art has been identified carved into the stones at some sites. The passage itself, in a number of notable instances, is aligned in such a way that the sun shines into the passage at a significant point in the year, for example at the winter solstice.
Maeshowe in Orkney, Scotland

Passage tombs or monuments are distributed extensively in lands along the Atlantic seaboard of Europe. They are found in Ireland, Britain, Scandinavia, northern Germany, & the Drenthe area of the Netherlands. They are also found in Iberia, some parts of the Mediterranean, & along the northern coast of Africa. In Ireland & Britain, passage tombs or monuments are often found in large clusters. Many later passage tombs were constructed at the tops of hills or mountains, perhaps because their builders intended them to be seen from a great distance.
Maeshowe Entrance today

The Winter Solstice - The Druids & Mistletoe

Druids formed the professional class in ancient Celtic society. They performed the functions of modern day priests, teachers, poets, ambassadors, astronomers, genealogists, philosophers, musicians, theologians, scientists, & judges. Druids led public rituals often held within fenced groves of sacred trees.  

The word "Druidae" is of Celtic origin. The Roman writer Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus, 23/24-79 A.D.) believed it to be a cognate with the Greek work "drus," meaning "an oak." "Dru-wid" combines the word roots "oak" & "knowledge" ("wid" means "to know" or "to see" - as in the Sanskrit "vid"). The oak (together with the rowan & hazel) was an important sacred tree to the Druids. In the Celtic social system, Druid was a title given to learned men & women possessing "oak knowledge" (or "oak wisdom").

Some scholars have argued that Druids originally belonged to a pre-Celtic ('non-Aryan') population in Britain & Ireland (from where they spread to Gaul), noting that there is no trace of Druidism among Celts elsewhere - in Cisalpine Italy, Spain, or Galatia (modern Turkey). Others, however, believe that Druids were an indigenous Celtic intelligentsia to be found among all Celtic peoples, but were known by other names.

The Winter Solstice is the time of the death of the old sun & the birth of the dark-half of the year.   The Winter Solstice was called "Alban Arthuan," Welch for "Light of Winter" by the Druids.  This was a time of dread for the ancient peoples, as they saw the days getting shorter & shorter. A great ritual was needed to revert the course of the sun. 
This time for the ritual may have been calculated by the great circles of stone & burial grounds which are aligned to the Winter Solstice, such as Stonehenge in England & Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland.   John Aubrey, writing in the 17C first thought it a "probability" that stone circles, such as Stonehenge, "were Temples of the Druids" titling his text on stone circles the "Templa Druidum."   This idea was picked up by William Stukeley, in the early 18C, who subtitled his 1st book, Stonehenge, published in 1740, "a Temple Restored to the British Druids, and his 2nd publication on Avebury, published in 1743, "a Temple of the British Druids."   Although later, in the 19C, Sir John Lubbock (1834-1913) dated Stonehenge to a period much earlier than the time of the Druids (that is, to about 3000 B.C., whereas the Druids don't appear in the historical record until 1800 years later), nonetheless the view was maintained by some, that Druids were pre-Celtic inhabitants of Britain & that the religious beliefs & practices for which Stonehenge was built are ancestral to those of the laterday Celtic Druids.  And the speculation continues.

Sure enough, the next day after the great Druid Winter Solstice celebration, the Sun began to move higher into the sky, showing that it had been reborn.  For the Druids, the Winter Solstice is the end of month of the Elder Tree & the start of the month of the Birch.  This is the time of the Serpent Days or transformation.  The Elder & Birch stand at the entrance to Annwn or Celtic underworld where all life was formed. As in several other Druid myths, they guard the entrance to the underworld.  At this time, the Sun God journeys through the underworld to learn the secrets of death & life and to bring out those souls to be reincarnated. 
Mistletoe has a compelling Druid history. According to ancient Druid tradition, Mistletoe was the most sacred of all plants. Mistletoe was used by Druid priests in a ceremony which was held 5 days after the New Moon following Winter Solstice. The Druid priests would cut Mistletoe from a holy Oak tree with a golden sickle. The branches had to be caught before they touched the ground.  The priest then divided the branches into sprigs & dispersed them to the people, who hung them over doorways as protection.  Druids believed Mistletoe had miraculous properties that could cure illnesses, antidote poisons, ensure fertility, & protect against evil witchcraft. It was also a sign of peace & goodwill. When warring tribes came across Mistletoe, a temporary truce would be observed until the next day. 
Tradition relates that on the Winter Solstice, Druids would gather by the oldest mistletoe-clad oak. The Chief Druid would make his way to the mistletoe to be cut whilst below, other Druids would hold open a sheet to catch it, making sure none of it touched the ground.  With his golden sickle the Chief Druid would remove the mistletoe to be caught below.  It is said that the early Christian church banned the use of mistletoe because of its association with Druids.

The Winter Solstice - The Roman Midwinter Festival Saturnalia

"How did the Romans celebrate ‘Christmas’?

"It is today associated with decorations, gift giving and indulgence. But how did the Romans celebrate during the festive season? English historian Dr Carey Fleiner, a senior lecturer in classical and medieval history at the University of Winchester, looks back at Saturnalia, the Roman mid-winter ‘festival of misrule’

"Q: What was Saturnalia, and how was it celebrated?


"A: It was the Romans’ mid-winter knees up!

"It was a topsy-turvy holiday of feasting, drinking, singing in the street naked, clapping hands, gambling in public and making noise.

"A character in Macrobius’s Saturnalia [an encyclopedic celebration of Roman culture written in the early fifth century] quotes from an unnamed priest of the god Saturn that, according to the god himself, during the Saturnalia “all things that are serious are barred”.  So while it was a holy day, it was also very much a festive day as well.

"The ordinarily rigid and conservative social restrictions of the Romans changed – for example, masters served their slaves during a feast and adults would serve children, and slaves were allowed to gamble.

Dice players in a wall painting from Pompeii

"And the aristocracy, who usually wore conservative clothes, dressed in brightly coloured fabrics such as red, purple and gold. This outfit was called the ‘synthesis’, which meant ‘to be put together’. They would ‘put together’ whatever clothes they wanted.

"People would also wear a cap of freedom – the pilleum – which was usually worn by slaves who had been awarded their freedom, to symbolise that they were ‘free’ during the Saturnalia.

"People would feast in their homes, but the historian Livy notes that by 217 BC there would also be a huge public feast at the oldest temple in Rome, the Temple of Saturn. Macrobius confirms this, and says that the rowdy participants would spill out onto the street, with the participants shouting, “Io Saturnalia!” the way we might greet people with ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy New Year!’

"A small statue of Saturn might be present at such feasts, as if Saturn himself were there. The statue of Saturn in the temple itself spent most of the year with its feet bound in woolen strips. On the feast day, these binds of wool wrapped around his feet were loosened – symbolising that the Romans were ‘cutting loose’ during the Saturnalia.

"People were permitted to gamble in public and bob for corks in ice water. The author Aulus Gellius noted that, as a student, he and his friends would play trivia games. Chariot racing was also an important component of the Saturnalia and the associated sun-god festivities around that time – by the late fourth century AD there might be up to 36 races a day.

"We say that during Christmas today the whole world shuts down – the same thing happened during the Saturnalia. There were sometimes plots to overthrow the government, because people were distracted – the famous conspirator Cataline had planned to murder the Senate and set the city on fire during the holiday, but his plan was uncovered and stopped by Cicero in 63 BC.

"Saturnalia was described by first-century AD poet Gaius Valerius Catullus as “the best of times”. It was certainly the most popular holiday in the Roman calendar.

"Q: Where does Saturnalia originate?

"It was the result of the merging of three winter festivals over the centuries. These included the day of Saturn – the god of seeds and sowing – which was the Saturnalia itself. The dates for the Saturnalia shifted a bit over time, but it was originally held on 17 December.

"Later, the 17th was given over to the Opalia, a feast day dedicated to Saturn’s wife – who was also his sister. She was the goddess of abundance and the fruits of the earth.

"Because they were associated with heaven (Saturn) and Earth (Opalia), their holidays ended up combined, according again to Macrobius. And the third was a feast day celebrating the shortest day, called the bruma by the Romans. The Brumalia coincided with the solstice, on 21 or 22 December.

"The three were merged, and became a seven-day jolly running from 17–23 December. But the emperor Augustus [who ruled from 27 BC–AD 14] shortened it to a three-day holiday, as it was causing chaos in terms of the working day.

"Later, Caligula [ruled AD 37–41 ] extended it to a five-day holiday, and by the time of Macrobius [early fifth century] it had extended to almost two weeks.

'As with so many Roman traditions, the origins of the Saturnalia are lost to the mists of time. The writer Columella notes in his book about agriculture [De Re Rustica, published in the early first century AD] that the Saturnalia came at the end of the agrarian year.

"The festivities fell on the winter solstice, and helped to make up for the monotony of the lull between the end of the harvest and the beginning of the spring.


"Q: Were gift-giving and decorations part of Saturnalia?

"A: Saturnalia was more about a change in attitudes than presents. But a couple of gifts that were given were white candles, named cerei, and clay faces named sigillariae. The candles signified the increase of light after the solstice, while the sigillariae were little ornaments people exchanged.

"These were sometimes hung in greenery as a form of decoration, and people would bring in holly and berries to honour Saturn.


"Q: Was Saturnalia welcomed by everyone?

"A: Not among the Romans!

"Seneca [who died in AD 62] complained that the mob went out of control “in pleasantries”, and Pliny the Younger wrote in one of his letters that he holed up in his study while the rest of the household celebrated.

"As might be expected, the early Christian authorities objected to the festivities as well.

"It wasn’t until the late fourth century that the church fathers could agree on the date of Christ’s birth – unlike the pagan Romans, Christians tended to give no importance to anyone’s birthday. The big day in the Christian religious calendar was Easter.

"Nevertheless, eventually the church settled on 25 December as the date of Christ’s nativity. For the Christians, it was a holy day, not a holiday, and they wanted the period to be sombre and distinguished from the pagan Saturnalia traditions such as gambling, drinking, and of course, most of all, worshipping a pagan god!

"But their attempts to ban Saturnalia were not successful, as it was so popular. As late as the eighth century, church authorities complained that even people in Rome were still celebrating the old pagan customs associated with the Saturnalia and other winter holidays."

Tuesday 17th December 2013  BBC History Magazine by Emma McFarnon

Friday, November 26, 2021

Native American Heritage Day

Native American Heritage Day is a national holiday observed on the day after Thanksgiving in the United States.

President George W. Bush signed into law legislation introduced by Congressman Joe Baca (D-Calif.), to designate the Friday after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day. The Native American Heritage Day Bill was supported by only 184 out of 567 federally recognized tribes, & designates who approved the Friday following Thanksgiving, as a day to pay tribute to Native Americans for their contributions to the United States.

The Native American Heritage Day Bill encourages Americans of all backgrounds to observe the day after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day, through appropriate ceremonies & activities. It also encourages public elementary & secondary schools to enhance student understanding of Native Americans by providing classroom instructions focusing on their history, achievements, & contributions.

The United States House of Representatives originally passed H.J. Res. 62 on November 13, 2007. The bill was passed with technical adjustments by unanimous consent in the United States Senate on September 22, 2008. Then, on September 26, 2008, the House of Representatives unanimously voted to pass the legislation again, including the adjustments from the Senate. The legislation was signed into public law by the President on October 8, 2008.

There is conflict about the day chosen to honor Native Americans.  In addition to calling Thanksgiving the "National Day of Mourning," some Native Americans believe it is "poor taste" for Native American Heritage Day to be on Black Friday - "a day of greed & aggressive capitalism."

Thursday, November 25, 2021

How the "Mother of Thanksgiving" Lobbied Abraham Lincoln to Proclaim the National Holiday


History.com By Barbara Maranzani Nov 21, 2019

The author of the children's poem "Mary Had a Little Lamb" was persistent in arguing that establishing the national November holiday could help heal wounds from the Civil War.

Secretary of State William Seward wrote it & Abraham Lincoln issued it, but much of the credit for the Thanksgiving Proclamation should probably go to a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale. 

A prominent writer & editor, Hale had written the children’s poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” originally known as “Mary’s Lamb,” in 1830 & helped found the American Ladies Magazine, which she used a platform to promote women’s issues. In 1837, she was offered the editorship of Godey’s Lady Book, where she would remain for more than 40 years, shepherding the magazine to a circulation of more than 150,000 by the eve of the Civil War & turning it into one of the most influential periodicals in the country. 

In addition to her publishing work, Hale was a committed advocate for women’s education (including the creation of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York), & raised funds to construct Massachusetts’s Bunker Hill Monument & save George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.

The New Hampshire-born Hale had grown up regularly celebrating an annual Thanksgiving holiday, & in 1827 published a novel, Northwood: A Tale of New England, that included an entire chapter about the fall tradition, already popular in parts of the nation. While at Godey’s, Hale often wrote editorials & articles about the holiday & she lobbied state & federal officials to pass legislation creating a fixed, national day of thanks on the last Thursday of November. She believed that such a unifying measure could help ease growing tensions  &  divisions between the northern  &  southern parts of the country. Her efforts paid off: By 1854, more than 30 states & U.S. territories had a Thanksgiving celebration on the books, but Hale’s vision of a national holiday remained unfulfilled.

The concept of a national Thanksgiving did not originate with Hale, & in fact the idea had been around since the earliest days of the republic. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress issued proclamations declaring several days of thanks, in honor of military victories. 

In 1789, a newly inaugurated George Washington called for a national day of thanks to celebrate both the end of the war & the recent ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Both John Adams  &  James Madison issued similar proclamations of their own, though fellow Founding Father Thomas Jefferson felt the religious connotations surrounding the event were out of place in a nation founded on the separation of church & state, & no formal declarations were issued after 1815.

The outbreak of war in April 1861 did little to stop Sarah Josepha Hale’s efforts to create such a holiday, however. She continued to write editorials on the subject, urging Americans to “put aside sectional feelings & local incidents” & rally around the unifying cause of Thanksgiving. And the holiday continued, despite hostilities, in both the Union & the Confederacy. 

In 1861 & 1862, Confederate President Jefferson Davis issued Thanksgiving Day proclamations following Southern victories. Abraham Lincoln himself called for a day of thanks in April 1862, following Union victories at Fort Donelson, Fort Henry & at Shiloh, & again in the summer of 1863 after the Battle of Gettysburg.

Shortly after Lincoln’s summer proclamation, Hale wrote to both the president & Secretary of State William Seward, once again urging them to declare a national Thanksgiving, stating that only the chief executive had the power to make the holiday, “permanently, an American custom & institution.” 

Whether Lincoln was already predisposed to issue such a proclamation before receiving Hale’s letter of September 28 remains unclear. What is certain is that within a week, Seward had drafted Lincoln’s official proclamation fixing the national observation of Thanksgiving on the final Thursday in November, a move the 2 men hoped would help “heal the wounds of the nation.”

After more than 3 decades of lobbying, Sarah Josepha Hale (& the United States) had a national holiday.

Spinning & Baking Thanksgiving Pies -1790 Diary of Weaver Elizabeth Fuller Age 14 Massachusetts

Pehr Hillström (1732-1816) A Young Woman Spinning

Elizabeth Fuller (1775-1856) was 14 years-old, when she started keeping a diary. She made regular entries from October 1790 through December 1792. She lived with her family on a farm in Princeton, Massachusetts.

Weaving is the process that creates all kinds of things, such as: clothes, towels, sheets, blankets, & sails to name a few. In early America almost all fabric was imported from England. Though England dominated the American market, the colonies had domestic producers, mostly in the northeast.  Some southern planters had their slaves make cloth, keeping agricultural laborers busy off-season & in bad weather. However, when trade in the United States became restricted during the period before & during the Revolutionary War, weaving not only became a necessity, but a patriotic duty.

The Boston Chronicle in April, 1766, wrote that women there "exhibited a fine example of industry, by spinning from sunrise until dark."  Spinning bees were held in early America to encourage the production of yarn to provide homespun fabric. In the 1760's these events became popular as a means to demonstrate opposition of the importation of heavily taxed British goods and for the mutual aid for those in their community.  The tradition continued after the conflict had ended.

However, spinning was a domestic chore not much practiced in colonial Virginia, as it was very time-consuming, and most cloth was imported. It would take 12 spinners of wool to keep a weaver busy at the loom, and 100 spinners of cotton to keep a full-time weaver busy. The technology of the spinning wheel dates to 500 B.C. in India.

Unmarried young women in rural New England during the 18C, often spent their days at home engaged primarily in textile production for both their own family's use & to trade for other items. Elizabeth Fuller washed, carded, & spun wool, while assisting with everyday chores such as making cheese & cooking.  The term spinster, once used to denote an occupation, began to refer to an unmarried woman in the 18C, as many continued to spend their days making textiles for the use of their extended families.
Platt Powell Ryder (American artist, 1821–1896) A Young Woman at Spinning Wheel

1790 Nov.

21 —Sabbath. Mr. Brown of Winchendon preached.

22 — Revd. Mr. Brown breakfasted with us this morning. He is an agreeable pretty man.

23 — Mr. Gregory killed a cow for Pa.

24 — We baked two ovensfull of pyes. — Mr. Nathan Perry here this eve.

25 — Thanksgiving to-day we baked three ovens full of pyes. There was no preaching so we had nothing to do but eat them. The pyes were a great deal better than they were last Thanksgiving for I made them all myself, and part of them were made of flour which we got of Mr. H. Hastings therefore we had plenty of spice.

From: Francis E. Blake, “Diary Kept by Elizabeth Fuller,” 
History of the Town of Princeton 1915

1777 Revolutionary War Thanksgiving Dinner + A Few Cookbooks

 

17-year-old Private Joseph Plumb Martin (1760-1850) recounted this memorable Thanksgiving meal in Pennsylvania with wry humor, and mentioned it several more times in his 1828 memoir.
"While we lay here there was a Continental thanksgiving ordered by Congress; and as the army had all the cause in the world to be particularly thankful, if not for being well off, at least it was no worse, we were ordered to participate in it. We had nothing to eat for two or three days previous, except what the trees of the fields and forests afforded us. But now we must have what Congress said - a sumptuous thanksgiving to close the year of high living, we had now nearly seen brought to a close. Well - to add something extraordinary to our present stock of provisions, our country, ever mindful of its suffering army, opened her sympathizing heart so wide, upon this occasion, as to give us something to make the world stare. And what do you think it was, reader? - Guess. - You cannot guess, be you as much of a Yankee as you will.  I will tell you: it gave each and every man half a gill [1/4 cup] of rice, and a table spoon full of vinegar!! 

"After we had made sure of this extraordinary superabundant donation, we were ordered out to attend a meeting and hear a sermon... I remember the text... “And the soldiers said unto him, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, ‘Do violence to no man, nor accuse anyone falsely.’” The preacher ought to have added the remainder of the sentence to have made it complete, “And be content with your wages." But that would not do, it would be too apropos; however, he heard it as soon as the service was over, it was shouted from a hundred tongues.

"As we returned to our camp, we passed by our Commissary’s quarters, all his stores, consisting of a barrel about two thirds full of books of fresh beef, stood directly in our way, but there was a sentinel guarding even that; however, one of my messmates purloined a piece of it, four or five pounds perhaps. I was exceeding glad to see him take it, I thought it might help to eke out our thanksgiving supper; but, alas! how soon my expectations were blasted!—The sentinel saw him have it as soon as I did and obliged him to return it to the barrel again. So I had nothing else to do but to go home and make out my supper as usual, upon a leg of nothing and no turnips.

"The army was now [December 1777] not only starved but naked; the greater part were not only shirtless and barefoot, but destitute of all other clothing, especially blankets... But hunger, nakedness and sore shins were not the only difficulties we had at that time to encounter; --- we had hard duty to perform and little or no strength to perform it with.... we marched for the Valley Forge in order to take up our winter-quarters.  We were now in a truly forlorn condition, -- no clothing, no provisions and as disheartened as need be... a few days before Christmas."

A Narrative of some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier; interspersed with anecdotes of incidents that occurred within his own observation.  Hallowell, ME: 1830. by Joseph Plumb Martin

The Life of Joseph Plumb Martin (1760-1850)
Joseph Plumb Martin (1760-1850) & Lucy Clewley Martin (1776 - 1857)

Born in Becket Massachusetts, at age 7, he was left in the care of his maternal grandparents in Connecticut. In June of 1776, he signed a short–term enlistment of 6 months. He returned to his grandparents’ farm that December, when his enlistment was up. After a winter at home he re-enlisted in April 1777. He served as a private in the 8th Connecticut Regiment, an element of General James Varnum's Brigade. In 1778, he was reassigned to the Light Infantry, & then in 1780, he was again reassigned to the Corps of Sappers & Miners & attained the rank of Corporal. Martin served until the close of the war & was present at Cornwallis’ surrender, capping his career at the rank of Sergeant. After his release from the army, he spent a year as a teacher in New York state before moving to Maine, where land was being offered to encourage settlement. In 1794, he married Lucy Clewley with whom he had 5 children. By 1818 Martin was destitute; his total property was assessed at $52 dollars. He applied for a veteran’s pension & was granted $96 a year. Martin also served for 25 years as town clerk of Prospect, Maine. He wrote several poems & songs, & about 1828 he wrote his memoirs entitled ‘A narrative of some of the adventures, dangers & sufferings of a revolutionary soldier; interspersed with anecdotes of incidents that occurred within his own observation.’  His journal is now considered one of the finest primary sources for study of the Continental Army soldier. Martin died peacefully at home at age 89.

Thanks to Pat Reber for sharing this narrative on her blog, Researching Food History - Cooking and Dining.

Colonial Era Cookbooks
1615, New Booke of Cookerie, John Murrell (London) 

1798, American Cookery, Amelia Simmons (Hartford, CT)

1803, Frugal Housewife, Susannah Carter (New York, NY)

1807, A New System of Domestic Cookery, Maria Eliza Rundell (Boston, MA)

1808, New England Cookery, Lucy Emerson (Montpelier, VT)

Helpful Secondary Sources
America's Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking/Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Colonial Kitchens, Their Furnishings, and Their Gardens/Frances Phipps Hawthorn; 1972

Early American Beverages/John Hull Brown  Rutland, Vt., C. E. Tuttle Co 1996 

Early American Herb Recipes/Alice Cooke Brown  ABC-CLIO  Westport, United States

Food in Colonial and Federal America/Sandra L. Oliver

Home Life in Colonial Days/Alice Morse Earle (Chapter VII: Meat and Drink) New York : Macmillan Co., ©1926.

A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America/James E. McWilliams New York : Columbia University Press, 2005.

Thomas Jefferson’s Complicated Relationship with Thanksgiving

Thomas Jefferson by John Trumbull (1756-1843) 1788 National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian
 
Thomas Jefferson’s Complicated Relationship with Thanksgiving 
The third president declined to participate in the tradition.


"Since the United States became a nation, people have come together to count their blessings, feast on bountiful foods & give thanks with family & friends...But there’s one president who refused to endorse the tradition: Thomas Jefferson.

"Ever since Jefferson first declined to mark the day in 1801, rumors have swirled that the 3rd president despised the event. But it was more complicated than that. For Jefferson, supporting Thanksgiving meant supporting state-sponsored religion, & it was his aversion to mixing church & state that earned him a reputation as America’s only anti-Thanksgiving president.

"In Jefferson’s time, Thanksgiving as a national holiday didn’t exist at all. The formal observance of Thanksgiving Day only began in 1863, when Lincoln proclaimed the holiday in response to the horrors of the Civil War. By then, the tradition of giving thanks as a nation had been in place since 1777, when Congress declared a national day of thanksgiving after America’s victory at the Battle of Saratoga. Afterward, presidents would proclaim periodic days of fasting, prayer & expressing gratitude.

"But not Jefferson. When he became president, he stopped declaring the holidays that George Washington & John Adams had so enthusiastically supported—and in 1802, he flirted with telling the nation why.

"Shortly after his inauguration, a Baptist group in Connecticut wrote a letter to Jefferson congratulating him on his election & expressing concern about the state’s constitution, which didn’t specifically provide for religious liberty. Baptists had long beenpersecuted in the colonies due to their emotional religious ceremonies, their decision to baptize adults instead of children, & their belief in the separation of church & state. The Baptist Association of Danbury wanted to be sure that they’d be protected under Jefferson’s presidency.

"Jefferson saw this as an opportunity to explain his views on state-sponsored religion. “I have long wished to find [an occasion to say] why I do not proclaim fastings & thanksgivings, as my predecessors did,” Jefferson wrote to his attorney general & friend, Levi Lincoln.

"At the time, Jefferson’s political enemies, the Federalists, loved to use his stance on the separation of church & state as a political cudgel, convincing Americans that he was an atheist who was making America less godly. Perhaps his response to the Baptists, which would be widely read, could make his views clearer & protect him against those slurs.

"In an early draft of the letter, Jefferson faced the Federalist accusations head-on, explaining that he considered declaring fasts or days of thanksgiving to be expressions of religion & that he opposed them because they were remnants of Britain’s reign over the American colonies.

"But Levi Lincoln warned him that his words might be construed as a criticism of New England, where feast of thanksgiving had become a beloved tradition. After careful consideration, Jefferson decided to drop the reference from his letter. His public reply to the Danbury Baptists didn’t include a comment on public celebrations of thanksgiving. Rather, Jefferson told them he believed in “a wall of separation between Church & State.”

"Jefferson paid the political price for that edit. “Withholding from the public the rationale for his policy on thanksgivings & fasts did not solve Jefferson’s problem, ”writes historian James Hutson. Since the public didn’t know the reasoning behind his lack of thanksgiving proclamations, says Hutson, he remained vulnerable to Federalist attacks that accused him of godlessness.

"In fact, Jefferson had once declared a Thanksgiving of his own: In 1779, while serving as governor of Virginia, he declared a day of Thanksgiving & Prayer. In 1808, he explained why he had been willing to do so as governor, but not president. Jefferson believed he could not endorse such a holiday without running afoul of the First Amendment—and furthermore, he considered days of thanksgiving the responsibility of the states, not the federal government.

"For Jefferson, it was more important to maintain a strict separation of church & state than to cave in to the public’s love of giving thanks. But since he never explained himself in public, American citizens never got the chance to appreciate his principled stance on the holiday. Jefferson’s public silence on Thanksgiving spun out into a centuries-long rumor that he was a Turkey Day grinch—especially when his successor, James Madison, resuscitated the tradition in 1815."

1770s-80s Thanksgiving Dinners

Still Life with Apples and Walnuts 1772 by Luis Egidio Meléndez (1716–1780)

PROCLAMATION by the United States in Congress assembly: October 31, 1780
Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, amidst the vicissitudes and calamities of war, to bestow blessings on the people of these states, which call for their devout and thankful acknowledgments, more especially in the late remarkable interposition of his watchful providence, in rescuing the person of our Commander in Chief and the army from imminent dangers, at the moment when treason was ripened for execution; in prospering the labors of the husbandmen, and causing the earth to yield its increase in plentiful harvests; and, above all, in continuing to us the enjoyment of the gospel of peace;

It is therefore recommended to the several states to set apart Thursday, the seventh day of December next, to be observed as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer; that all the people may assemble on that day to celebrate the praises of our Divine Benefactor; to confess our unworthiness of the least of his favors, and to offer our fervent supplications to the God of all grace; that it may please him to pardon our heinous transgressions and incline our hearts for the future to keep all his laws that it may please him still to afford us the blessing of health; to comfort and relieve our brethren who are any wise afflicted or distressed; to smile upon our husbandry and trade and establish the work of our hands; to direct our public councils, and lead our forces, by land and sea, to victory; to take our illustrious ally under his special protection, and favor our joint councils and exertions for the establishment of speedy and permanent peace; to cherish all schools and seminaries of education, build up his churches in their most holy faith and to cause the knowledge of Christianity to spread over all the earth.
Done in Congress, the last day of October, 1780, and in the fifth year of the independence of the United States of America.
Kitchen Still Life Attributed to Martin Dichtl (1639-1710)

1779
"This menu for a New England Thanksgiving dinner is taken from a letter written in 1779 by Juliana Smith to her 'Dear Cousing Betsey.'

Haunch of Venison Roast Chine of Pork
Roast Turkey Pigeon Pasties Roast Goose
Onions in Cream Cauliflower Squash
Potatoes Raw Celery
Mincemeat Pie Pumpkin Pie Apple Pie
Indian Pudding Plum Pudding
Cider
 Kitchen Still Life Peter Jakob Horemans ( 1700–1776 )

While it would be difficult to set forth a single 'traditional' Thanksgiving menu, the preparations related by Juliana Smith that went into this dinner were certainly typical of early New England Thanksgivings. 'This year it was Uncle Simeon's turn to have the dinner at his house, but of course we all helped them as they help us when it is their turn, & there is always enough for us all to do. All the baking of pies & cakes was done at our house & we had the big oven heated & filled twice each day for three days before it was all done & everything was GOOD, though we did have to do without some things that ought to be used. Neither Love nor (paper) Money could buy Raisins, but our good red cherries dried without the pits, did almost as well & happily Uncle Simeon still had some spices in store. The tables were set in the Dining Hall and even that big room had no space to spare when we were all seated.' Apparently roast beef was part of the tradition menu for this family, but 'of course we could have no Roast Beef. None of us have tasted Beef this three years back as it must all go to the Army, & too little they get, poor fellows. But, Nayquittymaw's Hunters were able to get us a fine red Deer, so that we had a good haunch of Venisson on each Table.' There was an abundance of vegetables on the table...Cider was served instead of wine, wiht the explanation that Uncle Simeon was saving his cask 'for the sick.' Juliana added that 'The Pumpkin Pies, Apple Tarts & big Indian Puddings lacked for nothing save Appetite by the time we had got round to them...We did not rise from the Table until it was quite dark, & then when the dishes had been cleared away we all got round the fire as close as we could, & cracked nuts, & sang songs & told stories."
American Heritage Cookbook and Illustrated History of American Eating & Drinking, Menus and Recipes, 
Helen McCully recipe editor [American Heritage Publishing Co.:New York] 1964 (p.416-417)
Pantry Still Life by candlelight 1630 - Georg Flegel (1566-1638)

1788
The pioneering American surgeon Mason Finch Cogswell, born in 1691 in Canterbury, Connecticut, described a typical eighteenth century Thanksgiving meal in his 1788 journal...On Thanksgiving day...he attended church in the morning, ate a dinner afterward consisting of turkey, pork, pumpkins, and apple pies...Cogswell spent time with his fater, then sang gonts and ate apples and nuts in the kitchen with his stepsisters before going to bed."
Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History, from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie,
Kathleen Curtin, Sandra L. Oliver and Pilmoth Plantation [Clarkson Potter:New York] 2005 [(p. 30-31)
Stiil Life with Rabbit Anne Vallayer-Coster (1744–1818)

1789 George Washington gives America's 1st Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation

William Dunlap (1766-1839) Portrait of George Washington, c 1783

During the American Revolution, the practice of celebrating Thanksgiving in the USA continued. Colonial legislatures set aside days of prayer to recognize military victories against the British army. After British General John Burgoyne surrendered to the Americans at Saratoga, New York, in October 1777, the Continental Congress suggested that a national day be set aside to recognize the victory. Commander of the Continental Army, General George Washington agreed, proclaiming December 18, 1777 as the first national thanksgiving day. The Continental Congress supported similar thanksgiving proclamations through 1784.

In 1789, Representative Elias Boudinot from New Jersey presented a resolution requesting that Congress persuade the now-President Washington to declare a thanksgiving observance in honor of the creation of the new United States Constitution. Congress agreed and passed the resolution creating a joint committee to make their request to the president.

Washington issued a proclamation on October 3, 1789, designating Thursday, November 26 as a national day of thanks. In his proclamation, Washington declared that the necessity for such a day sprung from the Almighty’s care of Americans prior to the Revolution, assistance to them in achieving independence, and help in establishing the constitutional government. Not ignoring the authority of state governments, Washington distributed his proclamation to the governors, requesting that they announce and observe the day within their states. Newspapers throughout the country subsequently published the proclamation and public celebrations were held. Washington himself marked the day by attending services at St. Paul's Chapel in New York City, and by donating beer and food to imprisoned debtors in the city.

The original Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation document was penned by William Jackson, secretary to the President, and only signed by George Washington. The declaration was announced in newspapers; and then the original was lost, probably on the move of the US capitol from New York to Washington, D.C. The original manuscript returned to its home in the capitol in 1921, when Dr. J. C. Fitzpatrick, of the manuscripts division of the Library of Congress, purchased the proclamation for $300 at auction from an art gallery in New York City. It was the 1st official presidential proclamation issued in the United States of America.


Thanksgiving Proclamation
New York, 3 October 1789
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States 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-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789. Go: Washington

Earlier, as the nation was forming, Samuel Adams proposed at the Continental Congress on November 1, 1777, "It is therefore recommended - to set apart (a day) for the solemn thanksgiving and praise: That with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor..."