William H. Baker

Thoughts of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is special to most of us. It’s a holiday that’s welcomed by young and old alike. Traditionally, this day has celebrated the giving of thanks for the autumn harvest.

Historians tell us that the custom is one of the world’s oldest celebrations and can be traced back to the dawn of civilization.

For those of us living in the early years of a new century, the emphasis on the celebration of the harvest has changed. It is still important that we remember the early history as we stop to acknowledge the holiday that stretches into a four-day weekend for students, teachers, and others in certain professions and services.

We tend to stop at Thanksgiving to give thanks for the foundation of the nation and not just as a celebration of the harvest.

Again, historians remind us that in this country, the tradition dates back to 1621, when new arrivals to these shores gave thanks for their harvest at Plymouth Rock. They joined with natives in celebrating and feasting in what has become to be known as the first Thanksgiving.

Recently, in searching for information on the history of popcorn popping, I learned that the native Americans are believed to have brought popcorn to that first gathering at Plymouth Rock. And, they enjoyed dried fruits, turkey, boiled pumpkin, and much more.

It was in 1789 that George Washington proclaimed Thanksgiving to be a national holiday in November that year. There was not a set day for the observance until 1863. President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November a national day of Thanksgiving. Congress, in 1941, sanctioned the day a legal holiday.

We should be thankful for the development of interests and events that led finally to a federal holiday. It offers us a special day set aside for visiting with loved ones, enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving meal, listening to memorable music, viewing “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” or watching a forgettable sports event on television. The time for the meal is the highlight of the day for all ages.

Youngsters will tell you, as one six-year old did, that “I’m thankful for my family so that I don’t have to be alone all the time. ‘Cause they do good things, and if I were alone, I couldn’t cook myself dinner and breakfast.”

In preparation for a special day and long weekend, there’s a Community Thanksgiving Worship Service at First Christian Church in downtown Middlesboro tomorrow, Sunday, November 18. It will feature a wide variety of sacred and gospel vocal and instrumental music with participation by a large number of local churches. The program starts at 3 p.m.

William H. Baker, native of Claiborne County and former resident of Middlesboro, may be contacted at wbaker@limestone.edu